What are the differences between bugs and beetles?

Bugs and beetles may sometimes look similar at first glance, but they belong to two quite different insect groups. Here are some features that can help distinguish between them.

Mouthparts

  • Bugs: mouthparts modified into piercing stylet (i.e. needle-like).
  • Beetles: chewing mouthparts.

Wings

  • Bugs: wings (if present) are membranous or partially thickened.
  • Beetles: forewings modified to form hard, leathery coverings called elytra, hindwings membranous and fold under elytra when not flying.

Diet

  • Bugs: liquid diet: mostly plant-feeders (nectar/sap), some feeders on animal fluids.
  • Beetles: wide range of plant and animal materials eaten.

Lifecycle

  • Bugs: incomplete metamorphosis - juveniles resemble adults except smaller and lack wings.
  • Beetles: complete metamorphosis - larvae with hardened head, chewing mouthparts and usually have legs.

Scientific classification

  • Bugs: Order Hemiptera
  • Beetles: Order Coleoptera


Dr David Britton , Acting Head, Natural Sciences & Biodiversity Conservation
Last Updated:

Tags insects, coleoptera, hemiptera, comparisons, comparing, identification, identifying, arthropods, arthropoda,