Department of Environmental Conservation

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True Bugs (Hemiptera)

General Information about True Bugs (Hemiptera)
Life history True bugs (aquatic) live their entire life in the water, but are capable of flying to different locations if water dries up. Aquatic true bugs breathe air like terrestrial bugs. The different kinds of true bugs have special modifications that enable them to store oxygen for underwater breathing.
Diversity There are about 18 families of aquatic true bugs in North America.
No gills; 3 pairs of segmented legs; mouth parts are beak-like; wings fold when not in use.
Habitat & Feeding True bugs may be found in lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps, and pool and backwater areas within streams and rivers. Larvae and adults occupy by the same aquatic habitats. True bugs are generally predators.
Water quality indicator status If aquatic true bugs are the majority of invertebrate population in a habitat it may be an indication that the water may be impacted by pollution because they do not rely on dissolved oxygen to breathe.
Fun facts
  • Aquatic true bugs use their beak to stab prey and then release enzymes into the prey to poison and immobilize them.
  • The male of one kind of an aquatic true bug carries around the fertilized eggs on his back until they hatch.