True Bugs of Kentucky - University of Kentucky Entomology (2023)

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Although many insects are referred to as "bugs," only the insects in the order Hemiptera are "True Bugs." True bugs, often called "hemipterans," are distinguished from other insects by a combination of unique features.

Hemipterans have piercing-and-sucking mouthparts, which work like a straw. Plant-feeding true bugs use their mouthparts to suck plant sap, and carnivorous bugs use their mouthparts to suck body fluids from insects and other small animals. A few parasitic bugs use their mouthparts to suck blood from mammals.

True Bugs of Kentucky - University of Kentucky Entomology (10)
"Beak" of a true bug (B. Newton, 2003)

Left: Close-up of an insect in the order Hemiptera. Note the piercing and sucking beak. Most insects in the order Hemiptera are able to fold their beaks under their bodies when not feeding, as this plant bug is doing.

True bugs also have "hemielytra." Hemielytra are similar to the hard wings (called "elytra") found on beetles, but on hemielytra only half of the wing (the half closest to the body) is hardened, while the other half is clear and membranous. All true bugs go through a simple metamorphosis, with egg, nymph, and adult stages. Nymphs resemble small adults, except without wings.

The true bugs are a diverse group. Stink bugs, assassin bugs, giant water bugs, bed bugs, and many other unusual insects belong to this order. Click on the pictures above to learn more about different kinds of true bugs.

Original document: 25 May 2004
Last updated: 26 April 2005

Photos courtesy R. Bessin and B. Newton, University of Kentucky
The Kentucky Critter Files are maintained by Blake Newton, Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky.

University of Kentucky Entomology/Kentucky Critter Files/Kentucky Insects/True Bugs


What is the insect of Kentucky? ›

The honeybee is named and designated as the official state agricultural insect of Kentucky.

Is bed bug a true bug to entomologists? ›

Bed bugs belong to the family Cimicidae of the insect order Hemiptera, the group of insects known as "true bugs." In addition to the three species that are associated with humans, there are at least 88 species of Cimicidae in the world that live with and feed on bats or birds.

Why are they called true bugs? ›

True bugs are distinguished from other insects by the structure of their mouthparts and the way they feed. True bugs are unable to chew; their mouthparts are designed for sucking up their meals. Their mouthparts include a tube called a rostrum, often called a beak.

What are the stink bugs of Kentucky? ›

They include the green stink bug (Chinavia hilaris), brown stink bug (Euschistus spp.), southern green stink bug (Nezara viridula), brown marmorated stink bug (Halymorpha halys) and red shouldered stink bug (Thyanta custator).

What are the largest insects in Kentucky? ›

Kentucky Bugs

The eastern Hercules beetle is one of our largest insects. Males have large rhinoceros-like horns; females are hornless. Mated females will fly to large cavities at or near the bases of mature trees, where they will lay their eggs.

Is stink bug a true bug? ›

True bugs include insects such as leafhoppers, aphids, cicadas, stink bugs, water bugs and yes those pesky bed bugs. They have many of the same parts as other insects in that they have an exoskeleton, segmented bodies, and 6 legs. However, they are different than insects in other groups.

Which bug is not a true bug to entomologists? ›

Beetles, ants, moths, cockroaches, bees, flies, and mosquitoes are not considered true bugs since they are not found in order Hemiptera. Instead, these creepy crawlies are found in order Hymenoptera. Members of this order have different characteristics than their true bug counterparts.

Which is not a true bug to entomologist? ›

People in everyday life call almost anything a bug, including spiders, centipedes, roly-polies and snails (none of which are even insects!). Insects in the Order Hemiptera are known in English as true bugs. So entomologists will only refer to an insects as a bug if it is a member of the Hemiptera.

Can true bugs fly? ›

True bugs have lots of different shapes. They may have long or short antennae having four or five segments. Their legs are adapted for grasping or for walking, and sometimes for swimming. Some can fly, some have lost their wings.

What are 3 characteristics of true bugs? ›

Defining the Order

These wing covers are held over the back and often partly folded. True bugs have hypodermic-needle-like mouthparts that allow them to extract subsurface fluids from plants and animals. Bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis, with their young looking much like adults, but without wings.

What is the largest true bug? ›

Among the largest insects on earth, the Goliath beetle can measure up to 11cm and weigh 100 grams in the larval stage (although adults are around half this weight). There are five species of Goliath beetle. They're found in tropical rainforests in Africa, where they mainly eat tree sap and fruit.

What are examples of true bugs? ›

True bugs

Is Spotted Lanternfly in Kentucky? ›

Last year, in 2021, a population of SLF was discovered in southern Indiana in Switzerland County. The infestation was only about three miles from the border of Kentucky. Figure 1: An adult spotted lanternfly has a very distinctive and colorful appearance.

What happens if you get bit by an assassin bug? ›

Some assassin bugs, most notably the wheel bug, will bite if picked up and handled carelessly. The bite of the wheel bug is immediately and intensely painful. Persons who are bitten should wash and apply antiseptic to the site of the bite. Oral analgesics, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may be useful to reduce the pain.

What is the black and red bug in Kentucky? ›

Boxelder Bugs are commonly found in Tennessee and Kentucky. Their distinct black and red color, grow up to 14 mm in length and have wings, antennae, and a flat body.

What are chiggers in Kentucky? ›

Chiggers, the immature stage of certain mite species, most frequently occur in overgrown brushy or grassy areas, especially where small rodents are abundant. Also, they may be congregated in shady, humid areas near stream banks, under or around trees, or in berry thickets.


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