Bugs: Order Hemiptera

Not all insects are bugs. A bug is a member of the group Hemiptera, of which there are many different forms including aphids, hoppers, scale insects, cicadas and, confusingly, the 'true' bugs.

Lace bug, feeding

Lace bug, feeding
Photographer: M Bulbert © Australian Museum

The one thing all bugs have in common is sucking beak-like mouthparts. Most use this to suck juices from plants but some, such as the assassin bugs, are predators of other animals. There are also scavengers and a few, such as the bed bugs, are parasites of mammals, feeding on their blood. The majority live in terrestrial habitats but there are also specialist aquatic bugs - those that live on water (such as water striders) and those that live under water (such as fish-killers). True bugs are the only group of insects that are found on the open ocean, with seaskaters being found far from land.

  • There are around 60,000 known species of bugs worldwide, with many more to be discovered.
  • Australia has about 5650 known species but scientists are finding more all the time.
  • All bugs undergo gradual development, with the immature stages and adult stage looking very similar to each other.
  • Some bugs have transparent wings while others have half leathery, half transparent wings.
  • Some plant-feeding bugs like aphids and the Rutherglen Bug are serious agricultural pests.
  • Many species are predatory and are beneficial to humans by controlling the populations of pest species.
  • Predatory assassin bugs are not aggressive toward humans, but can deliver a painful bite.

For enquiries relating to these insects in the Australian Museum collection please contact the Collection Manager

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