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TRUE BUGS

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Hemiptera

NUMBER OF SPECIES/DISTRIBUTION
There are approximately 85,000 species of true bugs that occur throughout the world.
  • There are about 11,000 species in North America alone. 
DIET/FEEDING
Aquatic and semi-aquatic true bugs are mainly predatory;
  • They use their beak-like mouthparts to pierce and penetrate prey, injecting them with digestive enzymes.
  • These enzymes break down the tissue so that the prey's juices can be sucked out.
  • Both nymphs and adults are predaceous, feeding on a range of aquatic insects and crustaceans.

Giant Water Bug

Terrestrial true bugs are herbivores and use special mouth-parts to suck sap from plants.
  • Large swarms of true bugs can cause severe damage to crops.
HABITAT
Because of the diversity of the hemiptera family, true bugs can be found in almost any habitat, including in and around water.
  • A greater diversity of true bugs will be found in warm, shallow waters that have lots of vegetation and slow-moving or still water.
  • Many true bugs live mostly underwater, but will periodically come up to the surface for air.

LIFE CYCLE
True bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis as they do not have a puapl stage. This involves passing through 3 life stages which are egg, nymph and adult.  

Eggs
  • After the eggs are fertilized, usually in the spring, the female may deposit them in plant tissue, soil, or bark. 
  • Eggs could also be attached to the surface of vegetation or on other objects, and may also be guarded. 
  • After about one to four weeks, the eggs will hatch.
 Nymphs
  • After hatching from the eggs, nymphs go through a series of 5 developmental stages (called instars), shedding their exoskeletons in between (a process called 'moulting').
  • As they progress through the instars, they increase in size and develop wing pads and scent glands for protection. 
  • The nymphs very closely resemble adults with respect to their physical appearance, behaviour, and habitat, but they are smaller. 
  • Nymphal development occurs quickly during the summer, so that it will be ready to mature into an adult before winter.
Adults
  • The final adult stage may either remain active throughout the winter, or may overwinter by hibernating. 
  • It areas where ponds freeze over, the adults of many species of true bugs may fly to streams where the water dosn't freeze for the winter. 
  • Mating occurs mainly throughout spring and during early summer, in the same habitat in which a particular species lives.
  • The courtship period is short and may involve any of a wide range of mating behaviours, including vibrations, sounds, and the flashing of brightly coloured legs, wings, and antennae
  • It may also involve the production of special chemicals used to attract mates (called pheromones). 
  • Once a mate has been found, males deposit sperm into the reproductive organs of the female.
  • Mating may involve the male riding on the back of the female, or joining of the tips of both their abdomens.
  • The life cycle of true bugs varies, and may take anywhere from just a few weeks to over 17 years.

INTERESTING FACTS
  • Some species of true bugs can inflict a painful bite if handled incorrectly. 
  • There are three types of true bugs that are associated with water;
  • The first group is fully aquatic in all life history stages, and includes six families of Hemipterans.
  • Two of these families are commonly called 'backswimmers', because they swim upside down. 
  • The second group is a group called 'surface dwellers' or 'surface skaters', and this group includes four families that are semiaquatic. 
  • These may be found living on the surface of the water, or at the water's margin, or may have some life history stages that are terrestrial 
  • The thrid group includes four families of Hemiptera, and are known as shore bugs. They live along edges of ponds or streams.

Sources
Animal Life Resource (2010). Cicadas True Bugs and Relatives: Hemiptera - Behavior And Reproduction. Available here
Discover Life (2010). Hemiptera. Available here
DMI International Corporation (2003). LaMotte Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Insect Identification Flashcards.
Guide to Aquatic Invertebrates of the Upper Midwest (2004). Hemiptera. Available here.
Soil and Water Conservation Society of Metro Halifax (2004). Order Hemiptera. Available here.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (2009). Hemiptera. Available here.

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