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Summary Article: Hemiptera from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Large insect order consisting of the bugs and containing about 55,000 species.

Classification Hemiptera is in class Insecta, phylum Arthropoda.

The order is divided into two suborders.

Suborder Homoptera These are the plant bugs. They are small to moderate-sized (from 3 mm/0.1 in to several centimetres/nearly an inch) insects with two pairs of wings usually present, held sloping over the body at rest. The forewings are usually evenly thickened with chitin; wingless forms are frequent. This suborder contains a large number of agricultural pests, some of which are vectors of plant viruses.

The important groups include the families Aleyrodidae, whiteflies; the Aphididae, greenflies; Cicadidae, cicadas; the Cicadellidae, leafhoppers; and the Psyllidae, plant lice. The superfamily Coccoidea, mealy bugs and scale insects, contains a further 16 families, many of which are important, including the lac insects from which shellac is obtained.

The plant bugs attack and destroy a wide range of plant life including grains, cereals, vegetables, fruit trees, and other trees. The aphids, one of the most important groups, transmit over 50 plant diseases.

Suborder Heteroptera This suborder, characterized by having forewings unevenly thickened with chitin, is separated into two divisions: Gymnocerata have antennae that are usually longer than the head. They are terrestrial or water-skating forms. There are over 40 families, a few containing pests of agricultural importance. The Pyrrhocorridae, the cotton-stainers cause the most damage; the Coreidae, Pentastomidae, and Tingidae are of lesser importance. Most of the other families are predacious, feeding on other insects. Three families: Cimicidae, bedbugs; Polyctenidae; and Reduviidae, assassin bugs, are active bloodsuckers of mammals and birds. (Polyctenidae attacks only bats.)

Suborder Cryptocerata Members of this suborder have antennae that are shorter than the head and are usually concealed. These bugs are usually predacious, and are truly aquatic, being adapted for swimming. This division includes the families Belostomatidae, giant water bugs; Corixidae, water boatmen; Nepidae, water-scorpions; and Notonectidae, backswimmers.

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