Hemipterons, also known as hemipterans or true bugs, are a diverse order of insects that have a common feature: a beak-like mouthpart that can pierce and suck fluids from plants, animals, or other insects. They belong to the superorder Condylognatha, which means “cone-jawed”, and have over 80,000 species in four suborders: Auchenorrhyncha, Coleorrhyncha, Heteroptera, and Sternorrhyncha.
Some of the most familiar hemipterons are cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, assassin bugs, bed bugs, and shield bugs. They range in size from 1 mm (0.04 in) to around 15 cm (6 in), and can be found in almost every habitat on Earth. Some are beneficial to humans, such as those that pollinate plants or control pests; others are harmful, such as those that damage crops or transmit diseases.
The word “hemipteron” comes from the Ancient Greek hemipterus, meaning “half-winged”, because some of them have wings that are partly membranous and partly hardened. The term “true bug” is often used to refer to the suborder Heteroptera, which includes the most diverse and recognizable hemipterons. However, entomologists use the term “bug” only for hemipterons or heteropterans, and not for other insects or arthropods that may have “bug” in their common name.
Hemipterons are hemimetabolous insects, which means they undergo incomplete metamorphosis. They hatch from eggs as nymphs that resemble miniature adults, but lack wings and reproductive organs. They molt several times before reaching adulthood, and some may change their appearance or behavior during this process. For example, some aphids can reproduce asexually by parthenogenesis, producing clones of themselves without mating.
Hemipterons are fascinating creatures that have adapted to various ecological niches and have influenced human history and culture in many ways. They are a source of natural products such as dyes (cochineal and carmine), resins (shellac), and honeydew (a sugary secretion produced by some hemipterons). They are also subjects of scientific research, art, folklore, and literature. For instance, cicadas are symbols of rebirth and immortality in some cultures, while bed bugs are notorious parasites of humans that have inspired horror stories and poems.
One of the most remarkable features of hemipterons is their ability to produce and perceive sounds. Many hemipterons use sound for communication, mating, defense, or predation. They can produce sound by stridulation (rubbing body parts together), tymbalization (vibrating a membrane), or crepitation (snapping their wings). They can also detect sound by using specialized organs such as tympana (eardrums), Johnston’s organs (antennal sensors), or subgenual organs (leg sensors).
Some of the most well-known sound-producing hemipterons are cicadas, which can create loud and rhythmic songs by tymbalization. Cicadas have different songs for different purposes, such as attracting mates, repelling rivals, or warning of predators. Some cicadas can synchronize their songs with others of the same species, creating a chorus effect that can reach up to 120 decibels. Cicadas can also hear the songs of other cicadas and respond accordingly.
Another group of hemipterons that use sound for communication are planthoppers, which stridulate by rubbing their hind legs against their abdomen. Planthoppers can produce complex and variable signals that convey information about their identity, location, and mating status. They can also transmit and receive these signals through the plants they feed on, using them as a medium for acoustic communication. This allows them to communicate over long distances and avoid predators that may detect their sounds.