A Moment of Science

Is That Bug Really a Bug?

True bugs are distinguished from other insects by the structure of their mouthparts and the way they feed.

stink_bug

Photo: Gustavo Duran

Stink bugs, for example are pests to various fruits such as tomatoes and peaches, making them true bugs.

The true bugs are a suborder of insects within the Order Hemiptera. True bugs are distinguished from other insects by the structure of their mouthparts and the way they feed. True bugs are unable to chew; their mouthparts are designed for sucking up their meals.

Their mouthparts include a tube called a rostrum, often called a beak. The rostrum is equipped with tiny needle-like structures for piercing called stylets. Connected to the rostrum is a pump, and muscles with which to operate the pump. The pump enables true bugs to inject salivary secretions into their food and then to suck the food through their rostrum.

What do they eat?

Most true bugs feed on plant sap. They access a plant’s sap from a variety of sources, including the stems, roots, leaves, fruit, and seeds of plants. A lot of true bugs are pests because they feed on human crops.

Stink bugs, for example are pests to various fruits such as tomatoes and peaches, making them true bugs, as are bedbugs and water striders. Not all true bugs are herbivores. Some, like bedbugs, feed on animals. Other true bugs feed on fellow insects.

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