Blattodea is an order of insects that contains cockroaches and termites.[1] Formerly, the termites were considered a separate order, Isoptera, but genetic and molecular evidence suggests an intimate relationship with the cockroaches, both cockroaches and termites having evolved from a common ancestor. The Blattodea and the mantises (order Mantodea) are now all considered part of the superorder Dictyoptera. Blattodea includes approximately 4,400 species of cockroach in almost 500 genera, and about 3,000 species of termite in around 300 genera.

Termites are pale-coloured, soft-bodied eusocial insects that live in colonies, whereas cockroaches are darker-coloured (often brown), sclerotized, segmented insects. Within the colony, termites have a caste system, with a pair of mature reproductives, the king and the queen, and a large number of sterile workers and soldiers. The cockroaches are not colonial but do have a tendency to aggregate and may be considered pre-social, as all adults are capable of breeding. Other similarities between the two groups include various social behaviours, trail following, kin recognition and methods of communication.

Temporal range: 228–0 Ma
Triassic – Recent
Domino cockroach Therea petiveriana
Domino cockroach Therea petiveriana
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Superorder: Dictyoptera
Order: Blattodea
Wattenwyl, 1882
  • Blattaria (cockroaches only)

Phylogeny and evolution

Blattoidae - Fossil
Fossil cockroach from Carboniferous of France

Cladistic analysis of five DNA sequences in 107 species representing all the termite subfamilies, all six cockroach families, including 22 of the 29 subfamilies, and 5 of the 15 mantis families (as out-groups) showed that the termites are nested within the cockroaches, and that the Cryptocercidae is a sister group to the termites. The mantids were shown to be the sister group to Blattodea.[2] Cryptocercus also shares characteristics such as species of gut bacteria with the termites.[3]

The cockroach families Lamproblattidae and Tryonicidae are not shown but are placed within the superfamily Blattoidea. The cockroach families Corydiidae and Ectobiidae were previously known as the Polyphagidae and Blattellidae.[4][5]

The evolutionary relationships of the Blattodea (cockroaches and termites), based on Eggleton, Beccaloni & Inward (2007), are shown in the cladogram:[6]









Cryptocercidae (brown-hooded cockroaches)

Blattidae (Oriental, American and other cockroaches)


Blaberidae (Giant cockroaches)

Ectobiidae (part)

Ectobiidae (part)


Corydiidae (Sand cockroaches, etc)

Nocticolidae (Cave cockroaches, etc)

Manipulatoridae (extinct)

Alienoptera (extinct)

Mantodea (Mantises)


Over 4000 species of cockroaches are found in every corner of the globe with each continent having its own indigenous species. Most of these are omnivores or detritivores and live in a range of habitats such as among leaf litter, in rotting wood, in thick vegetation, in crevices, in cavities beneath bark, under logs and among debris. Some are arboreal, some live in caves and some are aquatic.[7] A small number of species have taken to living in close proximity to humans in buildings, have been transported around the world by them, and are regarded as pests.[8] Although some species harbour symbionts in their guts which facilitate cellulose digestion, many species also produce enzymes to digest cellulose independent of the symbionts.[9]

Over 3000 species of termite are found in all the continents except Antarctica. The greatest diversity is found in Africa and relatively few species inhabit Europe and North America. They are also detrivores and many species eat wood, having specialised guts with symbiotic protozoa to digest the cellulose. Termites have soft bodies and keep out of sight as far as possible. They can loosely be subdivided into dampwood, drywood and subterranean types. In general, dampwood termites inhabit coniferous forests, drywood termites inhabit hardwood forests and subterranean termites live in a wide variety of habitats.[10]


Termites are eusocial insects that live in colonies. They operate a caste system, there being a king and queen in each colony and a large number of non-reproductive workers. The workers forage for food which they bring back to the colony to feed the reproductives and the developing young.[11] Cockroaches are also social insects but do not live in colonies, and all adults are able to reproduce. Some species form aggregations, others show an inclination to aggregate, and some exhibit parental care of their offspring.[12]

The two groups have striking similarities in behaviour which they likely inherited from their common ancestor. These include an attraction to warm and humid places, thigmotaxis, burrowing, substrate manipulation, hygienic behaviour, food sharing, cannibalism, excretion behaviour, vibrational communication, kin recognition, trail following, allogrooming, care of the brood, cropping of antennae and certain mating behaviours.[13] In some of these behaviours, there are marked similarities between termites and juvenile, but not adult, cockroaches. During the evolution of eusociality, the individuals need to share a desire to group together. Juvenile cockroaches have a tendency to aggregate while adults often compete aggressively with each other for space and resources. Similarly, grooming and being groomed is common in termite colonies but allogrooming is not a behaviour generally engaged in by cockroaches although individuals groom themselves.[13] An exception to this is the cockroach Cryptocercus, which seems to be more closely related to the termites than to other cockroaches. [14] Here juveniles groom each other and also groom adults.[13]

Both groups are also affected by their social environments. A single termite, kept alone, has a significantly decreased level of vigour and a shorter lifespan than when two are kept together. An isolated cockroach nymph may grow at less than half the rate of grouped individuals, and has a poorer life expectancy.[13]

Both termites and cockroaches engage in coprophagy, the consumption of fecal pellets. Adult termite workers forage and bring food back to the nest where they pass it to the reproductives and young either by mouth or by anus, providing the whole of their nutritional needs in this manner. Young cockroaches are ineffective foragers, seldom straying from their hiding places, and obtain much of their nourishment from eating the fecal pellets of larger individuals. From these they acquire the microbial flora that helps them to digest their food.[13]

A single cockroach family, the Cryptocercidae, and one primitive species of termite, Mastotermes darwiniensis, share such characteristics as the segmental origin of certain female reproductive structures, and the fact that both deposit their eggs in the oothecae that are typical of cockroaches.[15]


Arthropods similar to living cockroaches dominated the insect communities of the Carboniferous period. Modern cockroaches radiated from them by the middle of the Mesozoic.[16] This group of insects are nocturnal, only foraging for food and water at night. They are not considered eusocial because their populations are not divided into different caste systems; however, they are still social creatures and can live in groups with over a million individuals.[17] The cockroach is flattened dorsolaterally and is roughly oval with a shield-like plate, the pronotum, covering its thorax and posterior region of the head. The antennae are many-segmented, long and slender, and the mouthparts are adapted for chewing. The forewings are normally leathery and the hind wings membranous. The coxae of the legs are flattened to enable the femurs to fit neatly against them when folded. Cockroaches are hemimetabolous; there is no pupal stage and the nymphs resemble the adults apart from their size and the absence of wings.[16] Female cockroaches produce an egg sac known as an ootheca and can hold anywhere from 12-25 eggs depending upon the species.[18] Some species display parenting behavior, whereas other species have nothing to do with the young. In most species, growth to maturity takes three to four months,[19] but in a few species, the nymph stage can last for several years. The main factors affecting the duration of the nymph stage are seasonal differences, and the amount of nutrients received in the diet.[20]

Chemical communication

As in most insect species, cockroaches communicate with one another by the release of pheromones. It has also been discovered that cockroaches release hydrocarbons from their body that are transferred through interactions of the antennae. These hydrocarbons can aid in cockroach communication and can even tell whether an individual is a member of its kin or not to prevent inbreeding. Cockroaches that have been isolated in a lab setting have shown extreme behavioral effects and are less stimulated by these hydrocarbons and pheromones, possibly suggesting a group environment is required for development of these communication skills.[17]


Termites marked with traceable protiens

All species of termite are to some degree eusocial, and the members of a colony are differentiated into caste systems. The majority of termite populations consist of the worker caste which are responsible for foraging, nest building, grooming, and brood care. The soldier caste has one responsibility which is to protect the nest from predators and other competitors. Soldiers have highly developed mandibles as well as many exocrine glands that can secrete multiple defensive substances harmful to predators.[21]

Normally, only the king and queen termite reproduce; the other castes are all sterile. There are two classes of reproductives: primary reproductives and neonetic reproductives. The primary reproductives class is responsible for colony creation and is characterized by compound eyes, wing marks (spots where wings once were before shedding), and defined sclerotization. Neonetic reproductives can develop from within the colony usually when one of the primary reproductives has died, or can develop in addition to the queen.[22] Neonetic reproductives can experience two different phenotypes one with wings and one without. If neonetics are winged they will fly away from the parental colony, pair up and form a new colony, however if they are wingless they will remain within the parental colony. The different developmental routes taken by these two morphs are usually dependent upon food availability in the colony, or varying levels of parasitism within the colony.[22] The caste into which any particular nymph will develop begins to become apparent among the late instars; at this time, potential reproductives will begin to show an increase in the size of the gonadal region.[21]

RayNorris termite cathedral mounds
Cathedral termite mounds, Northern Territory, Australia

Termite colonies may be arboreal, mound-like or subterranean, with primitive termites nesting completely inside enclosed structures such as stumps or logs. Nest construction is largely from the termites' own faecal matter, other materials being chewed vegetable fibre, which makes a weak carton-like but waterproof substance, and soil which makes a strong substance, but which is subject to erosion by water. Aerial nests are connected to the ground by enclosed passageways; the soft-bodied, blind workers of most species live permanently in their protected environments and do not venture into the open air.[23] Trinervitermes trinervoides is an exception to this, with workers foraging in small groups on the surface at night, secreting noxious terpenes to deter predators.[24] The nests are complex structures and underground tunnels link them to the foraging areas.[23] In Africa, termite mounds can be as large as nine meters tall and thirty meters in diameter, producing an area of increased fertility and creating a small hotspot for biodiversity.[25][26]


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  3. ^ Djernæs, M. (2012). "Phylogeny of cockroaches (Insecta, Dictyoptera, Blattodea), with placement of aberrant taxa and exploration of out-group sampling". Systematic Entomology. 37 (1): 65–83. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3113.2011.00598.x.
  4. ^ Beccaloni, G. W.; Eggleton, P. (2011). "Order Blattodea Brunner von Wattenwyl, 1882" (PDF). In Zhang, Z.-Q. (ed.). Animal biodiversity: An outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness. Zootaxa. 3148. Magnolia Press. pp. 199–200. ISBN 978-1-86977-850-7. ISSN 1175-5334.
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  8. ^ Costa, James T. (2006). The Other Insect Societies. Harvard University Press. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-674-02163-1.
  9. ^ Slaytor, Michael (1992). "Cellulose digestion in termites and cockroaches: What role do symbionts play?". Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B. 103 (4): 775–784. doi:10.1016/0305-0491(92)90194-V.
  10. ^ "Termite Biology and Ecology". Division of Technology, Industry and Economics Chemicals Branch. United Nations Environment Programme. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
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  14. ^ Djernæs, M.; Klass, Klaus-Dieter; Picker, Mike D.; Damgaard, Jakob (2011). "Phylogeny of cockroaches (Insecta, Dictyoptera, Blattodea), with placement of aberrant taxa and exploration of out-group sampling". Systematic Entomology. 37 (1): 65–83. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3113.2011.00598.x.
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  26. ^ Pennisi, Elizabeth (2015). "Africa's soil engineers: Termites". Science. 347 (6222): 596–597. doi:10.1126/science.347.6222.596.

Blattidae is a cockroach family in the order Blattodea containing several of the most common household cockroaches. Some notable species include:

Blatta spp: Oriental cockroach, Turkestan cockroach

Periplaneta spp: American cockroach, Australian cockroach, Brown cockroach, Smokybrown cockroach

Florida woods cockroach: (Eurycotis floridana)

Common shining cockroach: (Drymaplaneta communis)

Botany Bay cockroach: (Polyzosteria limbata)


Blattoidea is a superfamily of cockroaches and termites in the order Blattodea. There are about 17 families and more than 4,100 described species in Blattoidea.The 12 families of termites are sometimes considered members of the suborder Isoptera, but recent phylogenetic analysis places them within the cockroach superfamily Blattoidea. Within Blattoidea, the termites are grouped under the epifamily Termitoidae.


Blattoptera, or proto-cockroaches, is a name given to various "roachid" fossil insects related to cockroaches, mantises and termites, and of general cockroach-like appearance and possibly habit. The group is on the rank of an order, though being paraphyletic is most often given without formal taxonomic rank. Several alternative names have been suggested for this fossil group, including Blattodea, a name currently used for the group including the modern cockroaches as well as their fossil relatives.


Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattodea, which also includes termites. About 30 cockroach species out of 4,600 are associated with human habitats. About four species are well known as pests.

The cockroaches are an ancient group, dating back at least as far as the Carboniferous period, some 320 million years ago. Those early ancestors however lacked the internal ovipositors of modern roaches. Cockroaches are somewhat generalized insects without special adaptations like the sucking mouthparts of aphids and other true bugs; they have chewing mouthparts and are likely among the most primitive of living neopteran insects. They are common and hardy insects, and can tolerate a wide range of environments from Arctic cold to tropical heat. Tropical cockroaches are often much bigger than temperate species, and, contrary to popular belief, extinct cockroach relatives and 'roachoids' such as the Carboniferous Archimylacris and the Permian Apthoroblattina were not as large as the biggest modern species.

Some species, such as the gregarious German cockroach, have an elaborate social structure involving common shelter, social dependence, information transfer and kin recognition. Cockroaches have appeared in human culture since classical antiquity. They are popularly depicted as dirty pests, though the great majority of species are inoffensive and live in a wide range of habitats around the world.


Corydiidae, previously known as Polyphagidae, is a family of the order Blattodea (cockroaches). Many are known as sand cockroaches. The family is divided into five subfamilies, comprising some 40 genera. One prominent species is the desert cockroach, Arenivaga investigata.


Cryptocercus is a genus of Dictyoptera (cockroaches and allies) and the sole member of its own family Cryptocercidae. Species are known as wood roaches or brown-hooded cockroaches. These roaches are subsocial, their young requiring considerable parental interaction. They also share wood-digesting gut bacteria types with wood-eating termites, and are therefore seen as evidence of a close genetic relationship, that termites are essentially evolved from social cockroaches.Cryptocercus is especially notable for sharing numerous characteristics with termites, and phylogenetic studies have shown this genus is more closely related to termites than it is to other cockroaches.


Dictyoptera (from Greek δίκτυον diktyon "net" and πτερόν pteron "wing") is an insect superorder that includes two extant orders of polyneopterous insects: the order Blattodea (termites and cockroaches together) and the order Mantodea (mantises), along with one extinct order, the Alienoptera. While all modern Dictyoptera have short ovipositors, the oldest fossils of Dictyoptera have long ovipositors, much like members of the Orthoptera.


Ectobiidae (formerly Blattellidae) is a family of the order Blattodea (cockroaches). This family contains many of the smaller common household pest cockroaches, among others. They are sometimes called wood cockroaches. A few notable species include:

Asian cockroach Blattella asahinai

Brown-banded cockroach Supella longipalpa

European native cockroaches - genera including Ectobius, Capraiellus, Phyllodromica and Planuncus

Fulvous wood cockroach Parcoblatta fulvescens

German cockroach Blattella germanica

Pennsylvania woods cockroach Parcoblatta pennsylvanica

Small yellow cockroach Cariblatta lutea

Virginia wood cockroach Parcoblatta virginica


Kalotermitidae is a family of termites, commonly known as drywood termites. Kalotermitidae includes 21 genera and 419 species. The family has a cosmopolitan circumtropical distribution, and is found in functionally arid environments.


The Lamproblattidae are a small family of South and Central American cockroaches in the order Blattodea. It consists of three genera and 10 species:

Eurycanthablatta Fritzsche & Zompro, 2008E. pugionata Fritzsche & Zompro, 2008: BrazilLamproblatta Hebard, 1919L. albipalpus Hebard, 1919: Panama; Colombia; Brazil (Amapá)

L. ancistroides Rehn, 1930: Colombia; Venezuela

L. flavomaculata Princis, 1946: Colombia

L. gorgonis Rehn, 1930: Colombia (Gorgona Island)

L. meridionalis (Bruner, 1906): Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (Trinidad)

L. mimetes Rehn, 1930: Brazil (Mato Grosso)

L. romani Rehn, 1930: Brazil (Amazonas)

L. zamorensis (Giglio-Tos, 1898): Ecuador; PeruLamproglandifera Roth, 2003L. flavoglandis Roth, 2003: Brazil


Neoptera (from New Latin neo "new" and ptera "wing") is a classification group that includes most parts of the winged insects, specifically those that can flex their wings over their abdomens. This is in contrast with the more basal orders of winged insects (the "Palaeoptera" assemblage), which are unable to flex their wings in this way.


Nocticolidae is a small family in the order Blattodea (cockroaches). It consists of only 32 known species in 9 genera. They are found in Africa, Asia and Australia. Most live in cave habitats, although a few are associated with termites.


The Orthopterida is a superorder of the Polyneoptera that represents the extant orders Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids), and Phasmatodea (stick insects and leaf insects). The Orthopterida also includes the extinct orders Titanoptera and Caloneurodea. There is general consensus of monophyly in this superorder, based on reduction of the second valvulae, an ovipositor derived from the gonoplac, and an enlarged precostal region on the forewing.

The two other superorders of the Polyneoptera are the Plecopterida, which represents the orders Plecoptera (stoneflies), Emboidea (Embioptera/Embiidina; webspinners), and Zoraptera (angel insects), and the Dictyoptera, which represents Blattodea (cockroaches & termites), and Mantodea (mantids). Two other orders, the Notoptera (ice-crawlers and gladiators) and Dermaptera (earwigs) are also placed in the Polyneoptera but outside the superorders discussed above.


Protelytroptera is an extinct order of insects thought to be a stem group from which the modern Dermaptera evolved. These insects, which resemble modern Blattodea, or Cockroaches, are known from the Permian of North America, Europe and Australia, from the fossils of their shell-like forewings and the large, unequal, anal fan. None of their fossils are known from the Triassic when the morphological changes from Protelytroptera to Dermaptera presumably took place.


The Pterygota are a subclass of insects that includes the winged insects. It also includes insect orders that are secondarily wingless (that is, insect groups whose ancestors once had wings but that have lost them as a result of subsequent evolution).The pterygotan group comprises almost all insects. The insect orders not included are the Archaeognatha (jumping bristletails) and the Zygentoma (silverfishes and firebrats), two primitively wingless insect orders. Also not included are the three orders no longer considered to be insects: Protura, Collembola, and Diplura.


Rhinotermitidae is a family of termites (Isoptera). They feed on wood and can cause extensive damage to buildings or other wooden structures. About 345 species are recognized, among these are severe pests such as Coptotermes formosanus, Coptotermes gestroi, and Reticulitermes flavipes.


Termitidae (Higher termites) is a family of termites. They are evolutionary most advanced termites group. Higher termites species gut have a high capacity to degrade lignocellulose.

They containing the following subfamilies:

Termitidae Latreille, 1802

Subfamily Apicotermitinae Grassé & Noirot, 1954 [1955] (synonym: Indotermitidae Roonwal & Sen Sarma in Roonwal, 1958)

Subfamily Cubitermitinae Weidner, 1956

Subfamily Foraminitermitinae Holmgren, 1912 (synonym: Pseudomicrotermitinae Holmgren, 1912)

Subfamily Macrotermitinae Kemner, 1934, nomen protectum [ICZN 2003] (synonyms: Acanthotermitinae Sjöstedt, 1926, nomen rejiciendum [ICZN 2003]; Odontotermitini Weidner, 1956

Subfamily Nasutitermitinae Hare, 1937

Subfamily Sphaerotermitinae Engel & Krishna, 2004a

Subfamily Syntermitinae Engel & Krishna, 2004a (synonym: Cornitermitinae Ensaf et al., 2004, nomen nudum)

Subfamily Termitinae Latreille, 1802 (synonyms: Microcerotermitinae Holmgren, 1910b; Amitermitinae Kemner, 1934 (disputed); Mirocapritermitinae Kemner, 1934; Mirotermitini Weidner, 1956; Capritermitini Weidner, 1956)


Dampwood termites constitute a small and rather primitive family Termopsidae (Latin) of termites (Isoptera). They contain four or five extant genera with 13–20 living species, but can be divided into several subfamilies. They may be a nuisance, but compared to the drywood termites (Kalotermitidae), usually do not cause extensive damage to buildings or other man-made structures. As their name implies, they eat wood that is not dried out, perhaps even rotting, and consequently of little use to humans.


The Tryonicidae are a family of cockroaches.

Insect orders


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