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This earlier conclusion had been based on the similarity of the symbiotic gut flagellates in the wood-eating cockroaches to those in certain species of termites regarded as living fossils.
Other researchers advocate the more conservative measure of retaining the termites as the Termitoidae, an epifamily within the cockroach order, which preserves the classification of termites at family level and below.
Termites are a delicacy in the diet of some human cultures and are used in many traditional medicines.
Several hundred species are economically significant as pests that can cause serious damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests.
The oldest unambiguous termite fossils date to the early Cretaceous, but given the diversity of Cretaceous termites and early fossil records showing mutualism between microorganisms and these insects, they likely originated earlier in the Jurassic or Triassic.
Termites and Cryptocercus share similar morphological and social features: for example, most cockroaches do not exhibit social characteristics, but Cryptocercus takes care of its young and exhibits other social behaviour such as trophallaxis and allogrooming.
Approximately 1.1 million active termite mounds can be found in the northern Kruger National Park alone.
There are three ecological groups of termites: dampwood, drywood and subterranean.
Termites are major detritivores, particularly in the subtropical and tropical regions, and their recycling of wood and plant matter is of considerable ecological importance.
Termites are among the most successful groups of insects on Earth, colonising most landmasses except for Antarctica.
Although these insects are often called "white ants", they are not ants.