When in Doubt, Don't Stomp and Shout

After visiting my childhood home for the first time, one of my college roommates described the difference between my family and hers as follows: “When someone in your family spies a bug, one person runs for the magnifying glass, another runs for the insect encyclopedia and a third person gently scoops the bug up and takes it outside. When someone discovers a bug in my house, the first person squeals and the second one stomps on it.”

So I’ll concede that I come from inquisitive stock and that one of the joys of gardening for me is to prowl around the yard periodically to see if anything’s happening that I haven’t seen before. This includes inspecting both for signs of things gone awry (e.g., a new bug infestation) and for things that simply weren’t planned (e.g., a new seedling that I didn’t plant). And if I do spy something new, I try and do a little research before taking any action.

Here’s a good case in point. I spent most mornings and evenings during the month of July wandering around my garden with a container of soapy water. We had a bumper crop of Japanese beetles this year, and I was engaging in what gardeners euphemistically refer to as “manual control” – i.e., dumping the sluggish insects into the water while wailing, “When will this bacchanalia end?” (As best I can tell, Japanese beetles spend their entire day chowing down and making whoopee.)

And then I spied it: An interesting gray bug snacking on a beetle.

Wheel Bug and Beetle

It took me a little while, but I eventually determined that the big guy was a wheel bug, Arilus cristatus – a shy but beneficial predator that feeds on soft-bodied insects and can inflict a nasty bite if disturbed. Also known as assassin bugs, wheel bugs are considered the lion or eagle of the food web, and are highly regarded by organic gardeners because their presence indicates a healthy, pesticide-free ecosystem.

The only minor issue was that my wheel bug was just noshing on one Japanese beetle at a time – and I had hundreds, if not thousands, that needed to be eaten. So I definitely think it’s time for wheel bugs to take a page out of the beetles’ playbook and engage in long, self-indulgent bacchanalia.

Wheel bug back


Togas are optional.

Curious Girl photo credit: Mads Boedker via photopin cc

Wheel Bug photo credit {{Information |Description={{en|1=Photo of a wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) on an annual sunflower leaf.}} |Source=Photo by contributor |Author=Dehaan |Date=7-30-2008 |Permission={{cc-by-sa-3.0-us}} |other_versions= }} {{ImageUpload|full}} [[Category:Reduv

Painting of Bacchus by Caravaggio


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