School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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True Bug Characteristics

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  • Beak: hard mouth parts of animals such as those found on birds.
  • Entomologist: name for scientist who studies insects.

What Makes a Bug a "True Bug"?

Unknown true bug

The insects that experts call bugs have many different body shapes, sizes and colors. However, the one thing they all have in common is a long slender beak shaped mouth part that looks like a straw. They use this beak to poke through plants and occasionally animal skin and suck out sap or blood.

Most true bugs have their front pair of wings partially hardened and only the tips clear, it looks like they have half a wing. Entomologists use this strange wing shape to give this group of insects their official name, “Hemiptera”, which means half wing in Greek. Their rear pair of wings is shorter than the front half wings and are completely clear except for the thin lines that run their length. These lines are called veins and strengthen the wing in flight and help provide folds to store the wing under the front wings when not flying.

Hemiptera also have antennae with very few joints (segments), usually about five. Their number of foot joints (tarsi) is also small with usually no more than three. All the other insect groups that look similar to Hemiptera, like cockroaches and some beetles, have much longer antennae and feet with more segments in them.

How true bugs are organized is shown in the diagram below. The order for all true bugs is Hemiptera which is divided into four suborders, Auchenorrhyncha, Coleorrhyncha, Heteroptera and Stemorrhyncha.

Taxonmy of the order Hemiptera

UBC 2016

They're Back! It's time to review this year's Ugly Bug contestants and vote for your favorite insect.

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Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

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UBC 2016

They're Back! It's time to review this year's Ugly Bug contestants and vote for your favorite insect.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.