Monday, October 27, 2014

Episode 237 (10-27-14): Bugs, True Bugs, and Aquatic True Bugs

Click to listen to episode (3:20)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 27, 2014.

SOUND – 4 sec.

What tiny word conjures up a huge world of crawling, flying, swimming, and sometimes buzzing and chirping creatures, but scientifically refers just to one particular group?  Have a guess while you listen to about 20 seconds of a recent festival devoted to this multi-legged world.

SOUND – 21 sec.

If you guessed, bugs, you’re right!  Those were sounds from the 2014 Hokie Bugfest, held October 11 in Blacksburg, Va.  This annual event, organized by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, treats hundreds of visitors to displays and information about insects, spiders, and other creatures commonly called “bugs.”  But entomologists classify one particular group of insects as the so-called “true bugs.”  That group’s distinguishing features include top wings that are in part thick and leathery and also in part thin and nearly transparent; immature and adult forms that look alike; and mouthparts designed for piercing plants or prey and sucking out fluids.  Of over 3500 species of true bugs in North America, about 400 species inhabit freshwater environments, but only in slow-moving or standing water, although one group, the water striders, contains species that can live on the ocean.  Unlike many other aquatic insects, aquatic true bugs don’t have gills for breathing oxygen dissolved in water; instead, as a group they have various ways of using oxygen from air, such as tubes that can be stuck above the water surface, or the ability to submerge with bubbles of air trapped beneath their wings.  These and other features make aquatic true bugs an interesting addition to any bug fest.

Let’s close with some common aquatic bug names, courtesy of several Blacksburg friends.

SOUND – 13 sec.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 10/27/14]

A scene from Hokie BugFest, October 11, 2014, in Blacksburg, Va.

Giant water bug specimen (lower right corner of box) at the Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab display at Hokie BugFest, October 11, 2014.


The sounds from Virginia Tech’s Hokie Bug Fest were recorded October 11, 2014, in Blacksburg.  Sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, Hokie BugFest is an annual fair to promote interest in entomology and celebrate the life of Virginia Tech’s first entomologist, William Bradford Alwood.  More information about Hokie BugFest is available online at

The aquatic bug names were recorded October 26, 2014, in Blacksburg.  Thanks to friends in Blacksburg for their participation in those recordings.

Sources for this episode

Borror, Donald J. and Richard E. White.  Field Guide to the Insects of America North of Mexico.  Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Mass., 1970.

Voshell, J. Reese, Jr. Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, McDonald & Woodward Publishing, Blacksburg, Va., 2002.

Other sources of information on insects

BugGuide, online at

McCafferty, W. Patrick, Aquatic Entomology: The Fishermen's and Ecologists' Illustrated Guide to Insects and Their Relatives, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Toronto, 1998; available online at

University of Florida Department of Entomology, “Featured Creatures” Web site,

Virginia Tech Department of Entomology Insect Identification Lab, online at

Other Virginia Water Radio episodes on insects

Dragonflies - Episode 119 (7/16/12), at

Mosquitoes – Episode 78 (9/5/11), at

True flies – Episode 221 (7/7/14), at