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Insect Identification Key
Order Blattaria: the cockroaches

Two cockroaches
Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control. For full-size photos, click here and here. Click here to see examples of more roaches!

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in the order Blattaria!

Members of this order include: cockroaches.

Etymology: Blattaria comes from the Latin blatta, which simply means cockroach.

General characteristics:
• quick-moving
dorsoventrally flattened body
• large shield-like pronotum that extends forward to at least partially cover the head
• two pairs of wings (in some species, the wings are small)
• leathery, membranous wings
chewing mouthparts
• two cerci
hemimetabolous metamorphosis (egg — nymph — adult)

Number of species worldwide: about 4,000

Basic ecology:
Cockroaches are generally insects of the darkness. They are negatively phototactic, which means that they are repelled by light, so they spend most of their time either under leaf litter, beneath logs or in other dark places during the day. They become active at night. If you have cockroaches in your house, you are most likely to see them scurrying for cover when you flip on a light at night. Cockroaches are quick, and because of their dorsoventrally flattened bodies, they can fit into seemingly impossibly narrow crevices and cracks. As anyone who has stepped on one can attest, their flattened bodies also make them somewhat resistant to squashing.

Click here to see examples of more roaches!

Classification :
Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Superorder Dictyoptera
            Order Blattaria

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Classification note: The order Blattaria is sometimes listed as the order Blattodea. At one time, Blattaria was considered a suborder within the order Dictyoperta. Most authorities today, however, have elevated Blattaria to the level of order, and use the classification of Dictyoptera as a superorder, which contains three orders: Blattaria, Isoptera (the termites) and Mantodea (the mantids).

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the order for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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