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Bugs and beetles may 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