What’s Bugging You? The True Bugs of the Insect World

insect on plant

What is the Difference Between Bugs and Insects?

You might already know that spiders and millipedes are not insects. But did you know that not all insects are bugs?

True bugs belong to the order of insects called Hemiptera, and they are distinguished by having specialized mouthparts that are modified for piercing and sucking. They are also unique in the insect world because they go through incomplete metamorphosis, which means they hatch as nymphs (that’s a “teenage” insect) from their egg, and have no larval or grub stage of growth. They are entirely different from the 30 other orders, which include such insects as beetles, dragonflies, wasps, butterflies and ants.

Of the millions of insects on this planet, about 80,000 are true bugs.

Let’s meet a few real bugs.


photo of aphids and ants

Aphids are perhaps the most common of garden pests. They are often found in the presence of ants, who ranch them for the honeydew they produce and defend the aphids against predators.


Leafhoppers come in a variety of colors, and tend to be well camouflaged - at least until they hop from leaf to leaf! 


Some bugs look entirely different when they are nymphs. This adult Largus bug has matured from a nymph that was round and iridescent black.


Cicadas males are best known for their summer time music. One species of cicadas, Magicicada septendecim, only emerge every 17 years!

Andrallus spinidens

While many true bugs are considered pests, not all true bugs eat plants! Some, like this Andrallus spinidens, use their specialized piercing and sucking mouthparts to eat garden pests such as caterpillars.

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