Zoraptera: The Tiny, Little-Known Relatives Of Termites

The Zoraptera are a very small order of insects, there are about 45 known species according to the Catalogue of Life..

They are also small in size, being less than 3 mm long. They are hemimetabolous, have biting mouthparts, are very short, have 1 segmented cerci and 9 segmented antennae.

Zoraptera are generally found under bark or in humus and leaf-litter. They are unusual in that each species comes in 2 different forms, one of which is ‘alate’ (has wings) and the other is ‘apterous’, i.e. doesn’t have wings. The apterous form is the more common, generally white in color and has no compound eyes or ocelli. Whereas the alate forms have both compound eyes and ocelli, and are more pigmented.

Though less than 3 mm long, an alate Zorapteran can have a total wingspan of about 7mm. Another interesting thing is that, like their relatives the Termites (Isoptera), they can voluntarily shed their wings.

Though little is known about their biology, it is known that 2 forms of nymphs occur that equate with the 2 different life-forms. They are usually found in rotting timber and/or sawdust, well composted leaf-litter and Termite nests.

They feed on fungal spores and smaller arthropods. The name Zoraptera comes from the Greek words “zor” meaning pure and “aptera” meaning wingless (they were named before the winged forms were discovered).


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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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