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Identification Key to the Principal Families of Florida Heteroptera
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Species E. Robustus
..............................HEMIPTERA Suborder HETEROPTERA True bugs
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Tessaratomidae is a family of true bugs. It contains about 240 species of large bugs divided into 3 subfamilies and 56 genera.
Tessaratomids resemble large stink bugs (family Pentatomidae) and are sometimes quite colorful. Most tessaratomids are Old World, with only three species known from the Neotropics. Some members of Tessaratomidae exhibit maternal care of eggs and offspring. The defensive chemicals of certain species can cause significant damage if they come into contact with human skin; they may also cause temporary blindness.
All species are exclusively plant-eaters, some of major economic importance as agricultural pests. A few species are also consumed as human food in some countries.
Larger species of Tessaratomidae are known informally as giant shield bugs, giant stink bugs, or inflated stink bugs, but they generally do not have a collective common name and are referred to mostly as tessaratomids.
Tessaratomids are ovate to elongate-ovate bugs. They range in size from the smallest members of the tribe Sepinini at 6 to 7 mm , to the large Amissus atlas of tribe Tessaratomini at 43 to 45 mm. They are generally quite large and usually exceed 15 mm in length.
The head of tessaratomids is generally small and triangular, with the antennae having 4 to 5 segments (though some of them, for example Siphnus, have relatively large heads). The scutellum (Latin for 'little shield', the hard extension of the thorax covering the abdomen in hemipterans) is triangular and does not cover the leathery middle section of the forewing but is often partially covered by the prothorax. The tarsi (the final segments of the legs) have 2 to 3 segments. They are most reliably distinguished from pentatomids by having six exposed abdominal spiracles instead of five.
Tessaratomids are oftentimes vividly colored. All tessaratomids are phytophagous. They generally feed upon plants belonging to the plant orders Rosales and Sapindales, and spend most of their lives in tree leaves and stems. They exhibit incomplete metamorphosis and have lifespans that can be several years.
Some tessaratomids guard their eggs and nymphs from predators which may include parasitoid wasps and assassin bugs.
The eggs of tessaratomids are barrel-shaped or globular. The eggs exhibit a ring of small protuberances, known as micropylar process, which permit entry of sperm for fertilization into the eggs. They also provide openings for air for the developing embryos.
Tesseratomids, like most heteropterans use chemical defenses (allomones),the source of the common name for pentatomoids - stink bugs. When threatened, tessaratomids may squirt a strong jet of caustic liquid up to a distance of 15 to 27 cm.