Dichtyoptera. Mantis, cockroaches (and termites) of Lebanon

One would not immediately gather mantis, cockroaches and termites under the same class. One can notice with irony this proximity of origin between cockroaches and mantis, when we know their opposite destiny in human culture. Indeed, the “praying” mantis profits of a positive and religious representation, whereas the cockroach is depreciated as a symbol of impurity, bad humor (the French “avoir le cafard” means “to feel blue”, the Arabic sursar is also someone who sticks his noise everwhere). These opposite interpretation may take their roots in the different ecological role of both orders: Mantis are ambush predators, whereas cockroaches are detritivors.

Yet, if you look at the antennas and wings of the mantis and cockroaches, they are quite similar. These three families have indeed common characteristics: crushing-type mouthparts, 5-segmented tarsi, front wings as elytra, foldable membranous hind wings, articulated cerci, and ootheca formation (except in termites). Hence, naturalists encompass them under the name Dictyoptera.

Cockroach Periplaneta americana and mantis Blepharopsis mendica

They also are hemimetabolous insects. Their development follows three distinct stages: egg, nymph, and adult stage, or imago. These groups go through gradual changes; there is no pupal stage. The nymph often has a thin exoskeleton and resembles the adult stage but lacks wings and functional reproductive organs.

Empusa pennata (imago and nymph) © ARL

From the same origin in a wood scavenger cockroach, the three kinds evolved some 150 million years ago (late Jurassic) in a very different way. Cockroaches became generalist scavengers, well-adapted to urban habitats; mantis developed predatory skills, and termites developed an eusocial organization, identical to ant colonies and bee swarms.

Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis)

No termites can be observed in the wild in Lebanon.

Sphodromantis viridis male and female © Rebecca Chamoun
Thistle mantis (Blepharopsis mendica) © Ramy Khashab

List of the Mantodea of Lebanon.

Rivetinidae. Eremoplani infelix – Rivetina caucasica – Rivetina Syriaca

Amelidae. Ameles kervillei

Eremiaphilidae. Eremiaphila gene – Eremiaphila turcica

Empusidae. Empusa pennata – Blepharopsis mendica

Mantidae. Sphodromantis viridis


Corydiidae. Hemelytroblatta africana

Ectobiidae. Phyllodromica brevipennis – Loboptera decipiens