James Pettitt, of Balclutha Primary School, asks :-

How many different kinds of bugs are there?

Anthony Harris, an entomologist at the Otago Museum, responded.

Although the word “bug” has been loosely applied to a number of insects, it can only be correctly be used for a member of the order Hemiptera, or true bugs. Eighty thousand species of true bugs have been described and there are many times more than that which have not yet been given names.

True bugs eat with a unique, jointed, beak, which pierces and sucks food. It is made from a modification of the bug’s mouthparts. Many bugs use their beak to suck plant sap. A few pierce and suck blood from other insects and mammals, including humans.

Bugs are very variable and include vegetable bugs, bed bugs, cicadas, plant hoppers, spittlebugs, froghoppers, aphids and scale insects.

Bugs such as vegetable shield bugs have the first pair of wings divided into a hardened section at the base that you cannot see through, and a clear, window-like section towards the tip of the wing. Other bugs, such as cicadas and aphids, have both pairs of wings clear all over.

All bugs have incomplete metamorphosis. Unlike butterflies, they do not have a caterpillar stage. Instead, a young bug, called a nymph, resembles an adult, except that its wings cannot be used to fly with, and are in the form of outside wing buds, that get larger and larger each time the growing bug changes into a new, larger, nymph. At last, the adult bug emerges from its last nymphal skin and can use its wings, once they harden, to fly away and find a mate.

True bugs are very diverse. Our clapping cicada is one of the larger bugs, and aphids are among the smaller ones.