Every year about this time, Tussock Moth Caterpillars invade our porch. Scores of them creep all over the porch rails and walls until they get to the ceiling.
Once there, they weave a tough silken cocoon that irritates me to no end... and I'm a pretty live and let live kind'a guy.
If I try and brush the creeping caterpillars off the porch, one of two things happen.
1) They survive the brush off and just come back.
2) They don't survive the brush off and leave a brown smear on my blue porch.
So, that ain't a plan.
Once they have constructed their impressively strong silk cocoons, even a pressure washer struggles to remove them.
It usually takes 2-3 short blasts per cocoon to remove them.
(Any brushing of the cocoon with a broom takes us back to the brown gut smear problem)
So, yeah, I'm not a Tussock fan.
But this year, I got help.
Maybe it was the mild winter or the extended drought, or both, or neither, but for some reason ... we have an extra abundant crop of Wheel Bugs (Arilus cristatus) this spring.
Wheel bugs are a type of "Assassin Bug" ... a group that specializes in ambushing other insects, injecting an innard-digesting enzyme, and then sucking the life out of their prey.
Their nymphs are everywhere and man are they hungry...AND Tussock Moth is on the menu!
Take that Tussock Moth porch defiler!
This is an adult Wheel Bug cleverly hanging out in a Magnolia blossom, just waiting to ambush some pollinator that happens by.
If you look at the Thorax of this Wheelie, you can see the round, spiked hump that gives the Wheel Bug its name.
A word of caution: Even though I like having these assassins around, NEVER make the mistake of picking one up. I did as a kid and I highly recommend NOT EVER touching one of these unless you enjoy the feel of a white hot needle being inserted into your finger and ... left there for a while.
These guys aren't fooling around.
Like any assassin, they are serious bugs on a serious mission.
Here are two "sharing" a Tussock Moth.