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Hemiptera

Hemiptera  (Half-winged).

The Hemiptera have two pairs of wings, the hindermost small, and the foremost pair half horny and half membraneous, the base being horny, and the apex membraneous. They include the Bugs, some of which are aquatic, as the Water Scorpion (Nepa), and the Water Boatman (Natonecta), which swims on its back, rowing itself by means of a pair of long legs, which look like oars; the common bed Bug is also of this order, although wingless, as are also the Plant Lice (Aphides), which, however, obtain wings in their perfect state.

Skipping the white ants or termites, which are few and comparatively harmless in this country, but in the tropics make vast trouble for house-holders; the various sorts of lice and the little black thrips that destroys onions and some fruits, we come to the great assemblage that entomologists call "bugs," limiting the word to the order Hemiptera, which now must be considered.

The two features, basally common to all the immensely diverse members of the order, are the character of: 1. The feeding organs; and 2. The wings—in each case very distinct from that of all other insects. The bugs have highly developed piercing and sucking jaws. The mandibles and first maxillæ are transformed into stylets, often barbed toward the tip; these work to and fro within the groove of a stout-jointed beak (rostrum) which is formed by the union of the second maxillæ. The head is usually triangular in shape, as viewed from above.

As to the second characteristic, the bugs are distinguished by the modification of the fore wings into partly horny covers for the entirely membranous hinder wings. This feature divides the order into two suborders, Homoptera and Heteroptera. In the first this hardening is little evident; but in the Heteroptera—where not wingless, as in certain families—the fore wings are stiff and lie flat on the back when closed, whereas in the Homoptera they are somewhat humped over the back, and droop down on each side a little. The triangular space marked on the back by the closed wings is a ready mark by which to recognize a hemipteran, or true bug.

The Hemiptera display a greater diversity of form than any other order of insects, and vary in size from almost microscopic scales to fat cicadas and "giant" water bugs. "Some pass their lives in the upper parts of trees, others chiefly on the lower limbs; still others prefer the protection of roots, stones or rubbish on the ground; a large number of species select a home beneath the surface of the earth, often in the holes of ants or other insects; a conspicuous assemblage of dull-colored forms occurs only in the crevices or under the bark of trees and shrubs; while a host of others skim over the surface of placid waters, and a few are found remote from land upon the rarely disturbed waves of the tropical and subtropical oceans.... While the greater number derive their food either from the sap of vegetables, or the blood of fishes, animals and man, there are others which are satisfied with the strong fluid that accumulates beneath damp, decaying bark of trees, or still others which enjoy the juices of fungi or ferns.... Those which creep about in search of living prey are often furnished with curved or hooked forelegs, suitable for seizing and holding creatures when in motion, such as caterpillars and other larvæ."

The Homoptera include the immense and destructive family Coccidæ, the bark lice, scale insects, and mealy bugs, among which, however, are the useful producers of lacs and such dyes as cochineal. Related to them are the Aleyrodidæ, the destructive "white flies," and the Aphidæ, almost infinite in number and in harmfulness to fruit trees and cultivated plants; also the queerly shaped leaf hoppers and similar minute, plant-sucking forms.

It is one of the curiosities of zoölogy that associated with these minutiæ we find a family of bugs of large size—the cicadas, whose loud "singing" by the male in autumn gives them the name "locust," and often becomes annoying when one wants to sleep where trees are near by. The noise is made by vibrating membranes stretched over a pair of sound chambers, situated, one on each side, near the base of the abdomen. The cicada lays its eggs in slits cut in the bark. The newly hatched young drops to the ground and, burrowing into it, feeds by sucking the juices of roots. The time spent in the ground varies according to the species in various parts of the world. In the case of our "periodical" cicada it lasts about seventeen years, whence we call that species "seventeen-year locust," and know it, when a great swarm comes out of the ground and ascends the trees, by the humming of the crowd which sounds like the vibration of telegraph wires in the poles.

SEVENTEEN-YEAR LOCUSTS
1-4, pupæ, increasing in age; 5-15, the locust imago struggling out of the pupa; 16, 17, 18, the imago stretching its wings; 19, empty pupacase; 20, 21, perfect locust. (Smithsonian Institution.)

The Heteroptera, or proper "bugs," are a much larger assemblage, a few kinds of which have attracted popular notice. The long catalogue begins with the small "water boatmen" that live an active predatory life on the bottom of streams and ponds. Other common aquatic families are the Notonectidæ, that swim on their backs, the Nepidæ, or "water scorpions," one of whose genera is that of the slender, long-legged "skaters" that glide so swiftly across the glassy surface of still waters. Then there are the great water bugs (Belostoma), which all over the world are the tigers of quiet rivers and ponds, pouncing from their concealed lairs on even minnows, small frogs, and anything else they can catch and kill. These great brown bandits are sometimes two inches long. Some of the tropical species are strange in form and have extraordinary habits in caring for eggs and young.

Leaving the aquatic group, we come to certain troublesome plant-sucking bugs, and to the bedbug, which claims the longest lineage of any known insect, for the remains of perfectly recognizable ancestors are found in Ordovician rocks dating from early in the Paleozoic time. Skipping the lace bugs, red bugs, or "cotton stainers," and others, we come to a series of families that are among the worst pests of the farmer and gardener, the chinch bug, squash bug, cabbage bug and many others, the aggregate effect of whose ravages causes a loss of millions of dollars' worth of crops every year, not only in this country, but everywhere that grain, vegetables, and fruit are cultivated; and in most cases it is not the native but introduced species that does the most damage.