Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Magnificent Bug - Part 1

Two days ago biology Professor Ron Beecham  walked into my office with a truly magnificent specimen - a Leaf-footed bug.  For once I get to use the term "bug" as it should be used, because this insect belongs to Order Hemiptera - the true bugs.  Technically, this is the only order of insects that should be called bugs.

This was such an interesting specimen that I took too many images to post in one blog, so I am going to post it in two parts.

 Hemiptera literally means "half winged." According to A Source-Book of Biological Names and Terms by Edmund Jaeger (copyright 1972) the prefix "hemi-" means half, and "pter" means wing.  [By the way, most of the order names for insects contain "-ptera", which makes lots of them easy to remember.]

The "half-wing" designation is obvious in the picture below - the forward pair of wings have a thicken base and are more membrane-like toward the tip.  This makes the wings look like they are half covered. 

This bug belongs to family Coreidae - the leaf-footed bugs.  According to Peterson's Field guide to Insects   "This is a large group, and most of its members are relatively large bugs.  . . . Some are plant feeders and others are predaceous. . . . Coreids often give off an unpleasant odor when handled."

I can definitely attest to that last statement!!

The following images were takien on a dissecting scope with a digital camera attached. 

Here is a closer look at the characteristic that places this insect in Order Hemiptera

Here you can see the flattened extension at the distal end of the hind legs.  Why is it there?  What comes to mind is that it might be used by the insect to control its flight.  That would be an interesting premise to test.

 This guy is loaded for bear!  Look at the spikes on the front edge of thorax.  There are also small spikes across the entire thorax.

A close up of the dorsal side of the head.  The two compound eyes are obvious as are the two red simple eyes.

 My, what pretty red eyes you have (or not).

This frontal view shows the spiky armor and, at the front of the head, a horn.

Flip the bug over on its back an you can see its piercing weapon - great for sucking sap from plants and drilling into other insects.  What you see here is actually the sheath the encloses the piercing stylets. The horn on the head is also visible here.

A closer look at the ventral side of the head.

This image shows the left side of the abdomen.  Insects do not have lungs like we do.  Instead they have a series of tubules, tracheae, that permeate all parts of their bodies and are open to the outside atmosphere via openings called spiracles, indicated on this image by the red arrows.

Below is a mosaic of several images pieced together to show the entire insect.  It was way too big to see at one time with the scope.

Part II will show scanning electronmicrographs of this same insect. 

As always, you are invited to come by or contact the SEM Lab at Eastfield College.  We support STEM research at all levels.

Murry Gans
Eastfield College


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