Order Hemiptera: The True Bugs

True Bugs belong in the insect Order Heteroptera. There are approximately 40,000 species of true bugs in the world, and over 3,800 in the United States.

Defining the Order

The True Bugs are insects that have two pairs of wings, the front or outer pair of each divided into a leathery basal part and a membranous apical part. These wing covers are held over the back and often partly folded. True bugs have hypodermic-needle-like mouthparts that allow them to extract subsurface fluids from plants and animals. Bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis, with their young looking much like adults, but without wings.

Effects on mankind

The hypodermic-needle-like mouthparts enable true bugs to extract body fluids from plants and animals, including humans. Plants generally show little effect of true bug feeding, unless the bugs are very abundant. A variety of insects, including caterpillars and cockroaches, often fall prey to assassin bugs. A few true bugs are pests or disease carriers. The notorious bed bug is generally uncommon in current households, but their close relatives often live in the nests of bats and birds. A group of assassin bugs in the tropics, known as Conenose bugs, transmit the serious human Chagas Disease, which sometimes causes death.

Interesting Facts about True Bugs

Some true bugs have been utilized as food for both humans and pets. Certain water bugs are used to give particular flavors to Chinese food, and are even imported into California for this purpose. An examination of commercial “turtle food” may reveal that it is composed largely of small water bugs. Some bugs are capable of producing a foul smelling chemical from glands in the sides of their bodies, especially the group known as Stink Bugs. This disagreeable odor turns away predators, but has no staining effect to humans. The Common Milkweed Bug has bright orange and black colors, and feeds on milkweed plants.

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