Wheel bug: The final molt

My wife called me excitedly this morning to announce that the wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) we’d been watching over the past few days had emerged from its final molt.

Its old grey skin hung crumpled on our patio screen, as it emerged a light red-brown.

Within about 30 minutes, its skin began to darken.

By the time I got home around lunch, it had morphed into a mahogany color and the wheel-shaped crest after which it is named had formed characteristic spines.

It moved from the screen onto the glass of our patio doors, to which it precariously held its grip. On a couple of occasions, it fell to the deck, only to climb back up.

From inside the house, we could see a metallic grey lustre form on its underside.

Nearly ten hours after its molt, the wheel bug assumed a silver iridescence that glistened in the early evening sun. This photo was taken after it had fallen off our siding into a spider web on the deck. I used a stick to help it get free from the web, as it seemed unjust to go through all that molting only to end up stuck as a spider’s dinner.

I moved it off our deck and onto the benches that surround the patio, closer to vegetation that might harbor its first meal as an adult. Including antennae, the wheel bug measured a full two-inches long.

The wheel bug soon crawled below the bench and out of sight. We’re hoping it’s not the last we’ve seen of this beautiful, marvelous insect.

3 thoughts on “Wheel bug: The final molt

  1. We found a couple of these in our yard not too long ago. At least I think it's the same species, since ours seems to be a bit more blue and a little less metallic in coloring. I think they're great looking insects and hope to see more of them around here in central Missouri. We do almost exclusively native plants in our yard, so there should be plenty of provisions for them. Nice photography!! I hope to have the opportunity to watch one develop, like you did.



  2. Great shots. I was raising a wheel bug myself this summer and also was able to witness its final molt, such an amazing creature. Easily my favorite insect.


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