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Insect Identification Key
Suborders Auchenorrhyncha, Coleorrhyncha and Sternorrhyncha: leafhoppers, cicadas, thornbugs and others

Leafhoppers
These insects are black-faced leafhoppers (Graminella nigrifrons). Notice how they hold their wings when they are at rest: slanted down and out to form a “roof” over their backs. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/ Stephen Ausmus.
Click here to see examples of more members of the Auchenorrhyncha, Coleorrhyncha and Sternorrhyncha!

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in one of three suborders of the order Hemiptera!

Members of these three suborders are:

• Suborder Auchenorrhyncha, which includes the cicadas, leafhoppers, froghoppers, planthoppers and treehoppers
• Suborder Sternorrhyncha, which includes the aphids, scale insects and whiteflies
• Suborder Coleorrhyncha, which is an unusual group of insects found in the southern Hemisphere.

*Note: These three suborders were once combined into the suborder/order Homoptera. Now, they are all part of the order Hemiptera. The order Hemiptera also has a fourth suborder called Heteroptera. Heteroptera has its own set of characteristics, which are listed here. See Classification Note below.

Etymology:

• Auchenorrhyncha comes form the Greek words auchen, which means neck, and rhyncos, which means nose or snout. This refers to the position of the mouthparts, which arises from the back of the head near the neck region.
• Sternorrhyncha comes form the Greek words sterno, which means chest and rhyncos, which means nose or snout. This refers to the position of the mouthparts, which reside between the front legs and near the chest.
• Coleorrhyncha comes form the Greek words koleos, which means sheath, and rhyncos, which means nose or snout. These insects have a sheath that surrounds their mouthparts.
Cicada
This is a 17-year cicada (genus Magicicada). Common in eastern North America, these cicadas live underground as nymphs (immature insects) for almost 17 years, and then emerge from the ground en masse as they become winged adults. They survive for another four to six weeks, during which time they mate. Photo credit: Mariano Szklanny.

General characteristics:
• two pairs of wings
• hind wings are membranous
• uniformly textured forewings may be either leathery or membranous
• when the insect is not flying, its wings fold together roof-like over the back
sucking mouthparts
hemimetabolous metamorphosis (egg — nymph — adult)

Click here to see examples of more members of the Auchenorrhyncha, Coleorrhyncha and Sternorrhyncha!

Number of recognized species in the three suborders worldwide: more than 46,000

Classification:

Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Hemiptera
            Suborder Auchenorrhyncha
            Suborder Coleorrhyncha
            Suborder Heteroptera
            Suborder Sternorrhyncha

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Classification note: As scientists learn more about insects, classification sometimes changes. That is the case with this order. At one time, these three suborders were grouped together into one suborder, which was known as Homoptera. Before that, Homoptera even held the status of order, separate from the order Hemiptera, of which these suborders are now a part. Today, however, most authorities have divided the suborder Homoptera into at least three separate suborders — Auchenorrhyncha, Sternorrhyncha and Coleorrhyncha — and discarded the name Homoptera altogether. This may well change, and some authorities are already proposing splitting Auchenorrhyncha in two. For the time being, however, this key uses the four-suborder classification of Hemiptera as it is described above. It includes the three suborders described on this page, plus the fourth suborder, Heteroptera, which is described here.

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the correct identification for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz, DailyGraceCards.com; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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