For more than a century termites have been classified under the Isoptera order. In fact, ever since termites have been scientifically studied, they have always belonged to this same order. What makes termites interesting is the fact that they are the only social insects that belong to their own order, Isoptera. However, just recently, all termites have been reclassified. Termites no longer belong to their own order; instead they have been grouped in with cockroaches. This blog has mentioned how termites are actually members of the Blattodea order of cockroaches a few times in the past, but now the reclassification is official in the scientific community. Despite the 2007 discovery that termites are members of a cockroach order, subsequent scientific articles concerning termites had still referred to termites as belonging to the Isoptera order. This reference to Isoptera continued out of tradition and it remained the norm in scientific publications until last week.
According to Entomologist Mike Merchant, “every single termite species has been recategorized.” Although entomologists have known that termites are technically cockroach ancestors for some time, they were continually referred to as being insects of their own order. A decade ago, genetic evidence demonstrated that termites are more closely related to cockroaches than any other type of insect. Technically, termites are members of the cockroach family. Despite the recent and official change in termite classification, termites are still very different from cockroaches.
Unlike termites, cockroaches are not social insects. This indicates that after termites branched off from roaches they underwent millions of years of adaptive changes to make them social insects. Not only are cockroaches loners, but flying cockroaches prefer to fly solo. Flying termites, on the other hand, always fly in swarms. The fact that both termites and cockroaches prefer moist conditions with abundant water sources is one of their few commonalities. These two insects are also similar in that nobody wants to see them in their house.
Do you think that many insects technically belong to the wrong orders or species?
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