As we began our endeavor to be pesticide-free in our pecan orchards, I have to admit that I had never heard of the wheel bug, aka the assassin bug. At first glance, it looked like a stinkbug and stinkbugs are bad for pecans. My father taught me that the little black spots on the pecans are caused by the stink bug feeding on the pecan as it is developing. So my first instinct was to squash the bug, bear the wrath of the smell, and move on. However, I thought better of this as my inquisitive son peppered me with the question, “Mommy, what is that bug?” and I relented to my own quest of learning about insects that are beneficial to our pecan crop.
After shaking some pecan trees onto tarps during the 2017 harvest, we saw a variety of caterpillars and stink bugs. This year the tarp revealed the presence of at least two wheel bugs per tree (that we can see) and one tree with six wheel bugs spotted. To date, I have seen only a couple of caterpillars and one stink bug! This is great news!
Now that we know that wheel bugs are beneficial insects because they kill other insects, we actively look for them and place them back in the trees to protect them from getting squashed as we maneuver the tarp to windrow the pecans or move the tarp from tree to tree. After more research, however, I have cautioned my husband to use gloves when handling the wheel bug since its bite is said to be extremely painful and its effects can linger for weeks! It is amazing that he hasn’t been bitten given all the wheel bugs he has rescued so far.