There we were, out for an open-air drink with new friends, the Piazzas, when a bug wandered across the table. My hubby, Metric Man, whipped off his glasses to study the thing and declared, “Yup, it’s a true bug.”
A true bug? Bugs is bugs! They have six legs, antenna, and are creepy-crawlie. Some have wings. Some don’t. A true bug indeed. What have I been looking at all these years? Fake bugs? Okay, I confess that we have had this conversation before, but I really can never remember the difference between a true bug and something else. I am also not sure it matters to anyone but the bugs.
So, in order not to be completely ignorant, I looked them up and was surprised to find that if you type “what is a true bug” into a search engine it comes up with an answer, so here it goes.
A true bug is from the order Hemiptera (which meant absolutely nothing to me) and has “piercing, sucking mouthparts” (which did mean something to me). True bugs are the those insects that puncture a hole in our plants, inject saliva, and suck out the food. Ewww. Aphids are Hemiptera and are a scourge to gardeners, particularly when they attack our roses. Cicadas, leafhoppers and shield bugs are bugs. The bedbug is a human parasitic true bug but not the mosquito. Evidently the wings of the mosquito are different, and its head is too small. In any case, true bugs seem to be parasites on plants and people. Yuck.
Too much? Wait. What about all those other bugs we have been calling bugs that aren’t bugs. Take the Diptera for example. This order is the true [there’s that word again] fly and includes the house fly and the mosquito but not other things with the word fly in them like the butterfly, dragonfly, or firefly. Oh my aching head. Or the Orthoptera which have hind legs for jumping. That one is easy: grasshoppers, the praying mantis and its relatives, and the other happy hoppers.
More than you wanted to know? Me too. I have no intention of going around naming something before I spray it or squish it. Still, when you find a cluster of bugs on a branch somewhere, it’s nice to know if you can safely leave them alone or if they will come back to attack your plants.