The term “true bugs” is applied to a group of insects in the suborder Heteroptera. Numbering 42,000 species worldwide, grouped into nearly 6,000 genera, the Heteroptera is a large, biologically diverse group. All members of the suborder have piercing-sucking mouth parts and exhibit incomplete metamorphosis in which juvenile nymphs resemble wingless adults.
The family Reduviidae is composed of 7,000 species of insect known as assassin bugs. Assassin bugs are often highly predatory; they capture an insect, stab it with their beaks and suck out the prey’s insides. Though some species of the family are capable of causing disease in humans -- Chagas disease is spread by these insects -- they are largely considered beneficial as they prey on species that damage crops.
Stink bugs, sometimes also called shield bugs, are members of the family Pentatomidae. Named for their ability to emit foul-smelling secretions, stink bugs make up a very large family of insects that is represented by more than 5,000 species throughout the world. Adult stink bug females overwinter beneath leaves, vegetation or bark and emerge in spring to lay eggs. Most species of stink bug are herbivorous, and some cause great damage to crops.
Water striders, also known as pond skaters, are true bugs that have mastered the ability to walk on water. More than 70 species of water strider worldwide make up the family Gerridae. Most species of water strider are predacious insects, and they will attack smaller bugs that they can overpower. Water striders are able to skate over the surface of the water because they are equipped with small, water-repellent hairs and they spread their weight out over a large area, which keeps them from breaking the surface tension of the water.
Toe biters are true bugs in the family Belostomatidae. Numbering 160 or more species worldwide, a few members of this family are the largest of all true bugs, with some species exceeding 5 inches in length. These bugs prefer to live in ponds and small pools, and often use the dead leaves and debris in the pond to hide. These bugs are highly predacious, and often take prey much larger than themselves; in some cases, large toe biters capture fish, frogs or salamanders. Toe biters, as their name implies, are capable of delivering a painful bite to humans that handle them carelessly.
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