No, ants are not bugs. Entomologists reserve the term bugs to describe members of the order Hemiptera. Ants are Hymenopterans and do not belong to that order.
In this article, we’ll learn more about why ants are not bugs as we look into the following:
- What are bugs?
- Characteristics of bugs
- Why ants are not bugs
We’ll also touch on the difference between bugs and insects.
What Are Bugs?
Bugs, otherwise called, true bugs are insects under the order Hemiptera. 
This order is comprised of around 80,000 species and includes the following insects:
- Bed bugs
- Shield bugs
These are not to be confused with fake bugs such as ladybugs or June bugs. These fake bugs carry the word bug in their common names but aren’t actually from the order Hemiptera.
Characteristics of Bugs
Hemipterans or bugs are classified through the following characteristics:
Bugs have features of insects, but what differentiates them are their mouthparts. These mouthparts are shaped like elongated beaks and are called a proboscis. They’re used to pierce and suck nutrients from plants and other small animals.
The name Hemiptera means half-winged. This refers to the fact that bugs have unique wings. Their wings are leathery and hard on the base while membranous towards the tips.
Unlike most insects, bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. This is a type of life cycle that skips the pupal stage and consists of nymphs instead of larvae.
These nymphs are immature insects that resemble adults. They do not undergo physical change as they develop to maturity.
Why are Ants not Bugs?
As insects, ants, and bugs share a few characteristics. They, for example, have exoskeletons, segmented bodies, and six legs.
However, ants are not bugs because they don’t possess Hemipteran characteristics.
- Ants Don’t Have Piercing-Sucking Mouthparts: Ants don’t suck. They have chewing mouthparts called mandibles which they use to crush, cut, and chew. See this article to learn more about ant mandibles.
- Ants Have Fully Membranous Wings: Ant wings don’t have a leathery base. They are thin and fully transparent.
- Ants Undergo Complete Metamorphosis: Ant larvae don’t look like adults. They have to turn into pupae and molt a number of times in order for their adult form to emerge.
Additionally, ants also have narrow waists. This is one of the key characteristics that classify ants under the order called Hymenoptera.
What is the Difference Between Bugs and Insects?
People often use the term bugs to refer to all insects. But they don’t actually have the same meaning.
Bugs and insects fall into different categories. Bugs refer to an order, while insects refer to a whole class under the kingdom Animalia. In terms of taxonomy, insects are a larger group compared to bugs.
In fact, the order Hemiptera is a subgroup of the class Insecta. This means that bugs are also insects but not all insects are bugs.
Summary: Are Ants Bugs?
Despite the fact that the main protagonist in the animated film “A Bug’s Life” is an ant, ants are actually not bugs. While both are insects, slight differences classify them into two different orders.
Bugs are from the order Hemiptera. They have a proboscis, half wings, and undergo incomplete metamorphosis.
Ants, on the other hand, are from the order Hymenoptera. They’re classified through narrow waists, fully membranous wings, and complete metamorphosis.