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Insect Identification Key
Suborder Heteroptera in the Order Hemiptera: the true bugs

Assassin Bug
This is an assassin bug, which is a member of the Reduviidae family. Notice the long, piercing beak (or rostrum) on this insect. Members of this family are predatory insects use that long rostrum to deliver a bite to their prey, which are other invertebrates. Like spiders, assassin bugs have enzymes in their saliva that liquify their prey's internal tissues, allowing the bug to then suck up its meal. Photographed by Mark Smith. Photo location and date: Huntington Woods, Mich., July 2, 2013.
Click here to see examples of more Hemipterans!

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in the suborder Heteroptera in the order Hemiptera!

Members of this suborder include: shield bugs, assassin bugs, water striders, stink bugs, bed bugs and many more.

Etymology: Heteroptera comes form the Greek words hetero, which means different, and ptera, which means wings. This refers to their forewings, the front half of which are noticeably thicker and more opaque than the rear half.

General characteristics:
• two pairs of wings (a small percentage do not have hind wings)
membranous forewings that are noticeably thicker and more opaque on the front half than on the rear half
• hind wings are membranous
• when the insect is at rest, the hind wings are folded flat and concealed beneath the forewings
• when the insect is at rest, the forewings (known as hemelytra) lie atop one another in such a way that they create a triangular shape over the back
suctorial mouthparts
hemimetabolous metamorphosis (egg — nymph — adult)

Number of recognized species worldwide: more than 50,000


Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Hemiptera
            Suborder Heteroptera (see Classification Note below)

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Classification note: The classification of the order Hemiptera is in flux. This key uses the classification that lists Hemiptera as an order with four suborders: Auchenorrhyncha, Sternorrhyncha, Coleorrhyncha and Heteroptera. However, some scientists are now considering additional suborders. Stay tuned!

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the suborder for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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