Hemiptera: The Hugely Successful World Of The “True Bugs”

The Hemiptera (True Bugs) is the largest and by far the most successful of the Hemimetabolic insects (having young that look like wingless adults and a sort of metamorphosis that does not involve a pupa).

There are at least 80,000 named species and probably many more. About 11,000 named species occur in North America, 5,600 from Australia and 1,600 from the UK.

Traditionally they are divided into two groups: the Heteroptera and the Homoptera (Sternorrhyncha, and Auchenorrhyncha) based basically on wing structure.

But now days the order tends to be divided into three suborders: Sternorrhyncha, Auchenorrhyncha and Heteroptera – with the Auchenorrhyncha now believed to be more closely related to the Heteroptera than the Sternorrhyncha.

Hemiptera Stinkbug nymph
Stinkbug nymph (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae: Eocanthecona furcellata)

The hemiptera range from 1 mm to 11 cm in length, their antennae usually only have 4 or 5 segments. Two or 3 ocelli are usual and their compound eyes are normally well developed. The main feature of the group is the mouthparts, which are of the piercing/sucking type. The mandibles and maxillae form 2 pairs of piercing stylets and are contained in a flexible sheath derived from the labium.

All the Homopterans and many of the Heteropterans feed on plant juices, though many of the Heteroptera are predatory – and some are useful as controllers of plant pests.

The 2 groups can often be distinguished easily, as the Heteropterans have a large pronotum and a relatively small mesonotum and metonotumu. Whereas most Homopterans have a small pronotum and a large mesonotum – and slightly smaller metanotum.

Further to this, the wings of the Heteropterans are usually held flat over the body and the forewings (which are hard and stiff, almost like beetle elytra) have the end part soft and membranous; therefore Heteropteran forewings are referred to as ‘hemi-elytra’. Homopterans usually hold their wings over the body like a tent and the forewings are entirely sclerotised, with no membraneuos tip.

The Homoptera

The following are the result of my poor scanning and rearranging (to save space) of a few plates from “The HEMIPTERA HOMOPTERA (Cicadina and Psyllina) of the BRITISH ISLANDS” by James Edwards, F.E.S. 1896.

This should give you a general idea about the incredible diversity we see within this order.

The Heteroptera

The following are the result of my poor scanning and rearranging (to save space) of a few more plates from “The HEMIPTERA HETEROPTERA of the British Islands” by Edward Saunders, F.L.S. 1892.

Again, this is to demonstrate the diversity – for more detail on particular families, you may click on the links within the taxonomy section at the end of the page.

Taxonomy of the Order Hemiptera

For further information on the taxonomy of the order hemiptera see TOL or check out these photos of different hemipteran species.

SubOrder Coleorrhyncha

  • Family Peloridiidae

SubOrder Heteroptera

InfraOrder Pentatomorpha

  • Superfamily Aradoidea
  • Superfamily Pentatomoidea
  • Superfamily Idiostoloidea
  • Superfamily Piesmatoidea
  • Superfamily Lygaeoidea
  • Superfamily Pyrrhocoroidea
  • Superfamily Coreoidea

InfraOrder Cimicomorpha

  • Superfamily Thaumastocoroidea
  • Superfamily Joppeicoidae
  • Superfamily Tingidea
  • Superfamily Miroidea
  • Superfamily Cimicoidea
  • Superfamily Reduvioidea

InfraOrder Leptopodomorpha

InfraOrder Dipsocoromorpha

InfraOrder Gerromorpha

InfraOrder Nepomorpha

InfraOrder Enicocephalomorpha

SubOrder Auchenorryncha

InfraOrder Fulgoromorpha

InfraOrder Cicadomorpha

  • Superfamily Cercopoidea
  • Superfamily Cicadoidea
  • Superfamily Cicadelloidea
  • Superfamily Membracoidea

Suborder Sternorrhyncha

  • Superfamily Psylloidea
  • Superfamily Aleyrodoidea
  • Superfamily Adelgoidea
  • Superfamily Aphidoidea
  • Superfamily Coccoidea


  1. Dolling, W. R. (1991) The Hemiptera, Oxford University Press.
  2. Evans, J.W. (1963) The Phylogeny of the Homoptera, Annual Review of Entomology, 8 pp 77-94.
  3. Miller, N.C.E. (1971) The Biology of the Heteroptera 2nd Ed. Hill, London.
  4. Slater, J.A. and Baranowski, R.M. (1978) How to Know the True Bugs (Hemiptera-Heteroptera) William Brown, Dubuque, Iowa.
  5. Southwood, T.R.E. (1959) Land and Water Bugs of The British Isles Warne, London.
  6. Stondahl, G.M. and Dolling, W.R. (1991) Heteroptera identification: A reference guide, with special emphasis on economic groups, Journal of Natural History, 25 pp 1027-1066

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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