With over 80,000 species worldwide, the Hemiptera (true bugs) are the 5th largest order of insects behind the Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera and Lepidoptera.

Members of the Hemiptera have characteristic sucking mouthparts called a rostrum (or proboscis) formed by modification of the mandibles and maxillae.

The hemipteran life cycle is technically hemimetabolous (no pupa), however, there are five instars (growth stages) from egg to final moult instead of the usual three.


The great majority of Hemiptera are plant feeders (phytophagous) using the rostrum to suck plant sap. This may cause some deformation to leaves but does not usually cause long term effects to the plant.

Some Hemiptera feed on other animals, but apart from the bed bug, there are few that bite humans.

Find out more about the the four suborders:

  • A shield bug

    This is the largest Hemiptera suborder containing many varied bugs with differing life styles including the bed bug.

  • Coleorrhyncha

    Explore this small and ancient group of unusual bugs with a Gondwanaland distribution (Chile, Australia and New Zealand).

  • A peanut head bug

    Learn about the Auchenorrhyncha, the plant feeding bugs that include spittle bugs, lantern bugs and the vocal cicadas.

  • Aphids

    Find out about the Sternorrhyncha that includes four main groups of bugs with extreme morphological adaptations.

Hemiptera collection
Hemiptera collections

The Museum's Hemiptera collection is rich in type specimens. 

About the name

The name true bugs distinguishes this group of insects from the colloquial 'bugs', a word often applied to anything vaguely insect-like.


Maxillae are the two bones that join together to create the upper jaw in many animals. 

Metamorphosis that does not include a pupal stage. Instead the egg becomes a nymph that is similar to the adult except smaller and wingless.