Dictyoptera means "network wings," referring to the visible network of veins present in the wings of this order. The order Dictyoptera includes two suborders of insects related by evolution and features: Blattaria, the cockroaches, and Mantodea, the mantids.
Perhaps no other pairing of insects seems as unlikely as cockroaches and mantids of the order Dictyoptera. Cockroaches are almost universally reviled, while mantids, also called praying mantises, are often revered. Taxonomists rely only on physical and functional characteristics to determine groups of like insects, however.
Compare a cockroach and a mantid, and you'll notice both have leathery forewings. Called tegmina, these wings appear roof-shaped over the abdomen. Two pairs of legs, the middle and hind sets, appear similar - long, spiny, and made for running. The feet, or tarsi, nearly always have five segments.
Dictyopterans use chewing mouthparts to consume their food. Long segmented antennae provide mantids and cockroaches with information about their environment.
Members of this order undergo incomplete or simple metamorphosis with three stages of development: egg, nymph, and adult. The female lays eggs in groups, then encases them in foam which hardens into a protective capsule, or ootheca.
Habitat and Distribution:
The order Dictyoptera contains nearly 6,000 species, distributed worldwide. With very few exceptions, mantids and cockroaches require terrestrial habitats. Most species live in tropical regions.
Major Families in the Order:
- Blattidae - Oriental and American cockroaches
- Blattellidae- German and wood cockroaches
- Polyphagidae - desert cockroaches
- Blaberidae - giant cockroaches
- Mantidae - mantids
Dictyopterans of Interest:
- Blatta orientalis, the Oriental cockroach, gains access to homes through plumbing pipes.
- The Brown-banded cockroach, Supella longipalpa, is called the "TV roach." It likes to hide inside warm electronic appliances.
- Brown-hooded cockroaches (Cryptocercus punctulatus) live in family groups. Females give birth to live young; the nymphs take 6 years to reach maturity.
- The Mediterranean mantid takes its scientific name, Iris oratoria from an unusual marking on the underside of its wing. Literally, the name means "talking eye," a smart description of the eyespot which is displayed when the mantid feels threatened.