This past Sunday, as Megan and I were walking along a lichen covered split rail fence at the Slate Run Farm, we encountered this rather nasty looking bug. It turns out that it was a member of the assassin bug family. A quick look in the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America led me to the Wheel Bug, Arilus cristatus.
There are two interesting things about this insect besides in huge size (Its body alone was about an inch long, and it holds itself quite off the ground). First is that really interesting comblike projection on its thorax. I'm guessing that is where the scientific name cristata comes from, since cristata is Latin for crest or comb. Thank you University of Notre Dame Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid. You may recognize this root from scientific plant names like Carex cristatella or even Iris cristata.
The second extremely interesting part of this creature is that long beak or needle like projection extending backward underneath its head and neck. In the Kaufman guide, it says that assassin bugs can use this to inflict excruciatingly painful defensive bites! Fortunately, I was spared. An interesting bug indeed.