Termitoidae or termites are an epifamily of cockroaches containing some 2,900 species in seven families.

Termites are unique amongst orthopteroids for living in large colonies, up to millions of individuals, and being eusocial, meaning that:

  • There is a division of labour. Only the reproductive caste reproduces.
  • Several different generations are found in a nest.
  • They cooperate to care for the young.

They have a polymorphic caste system of reproductives, workers, and soldiers. The mouthparts are mandibulate but vary among castes with some soldiers having a bizarre development of mandibles or a nasus (snout).

Other characteristics include:

  • compound eyes which are often reduced
  • long multisegmented antennae
  • similar forewings and hindwings which are membranous, and have restricted venation

The Australian termite Mastotermes has complex wing venation and a broad hindwing anal lobe and is exceptional among termites in that the female has an ovipositor (egg laying tube) like a cockroach.The male external genitalia are weakly developed and symmetrical, in contrast to the well developed, complex genitalia of cockroaches and the Mantodea.

Termites in a nest
Termite research

Learn about the Museum's research into termites.


In taxonomy, an epifamily is a rank between family and superfamily.