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Common Name:  Zorapterans / Angel Insects

Greek Origins of Name:  Zoraptera, derived from the Greek “zor” meaning pure and “aptera” meaning wingless, was given to the order before winged forms were discovered.

Spot ID Key Characters:

  1. Small; soft-bodied; wings often absent
  2. 2-segmented tarsi; 1-segmented cerci
  3. Antennae 9-segmented
  4. Mouthparts mandibulate, hypognathous


Hemimetabola, i.e. incomplete metamorphosis (egg, nymph, adult)


Polyneoptera, closely related to Orthoptera;  some entomologists believe they may represent an evolutionary link between Polyneoptera and Paraneoptera (particularly Psocodea).


Rare.   Usually found only in association with rotting wood or piles of aged sawdust. Known to occur in all biogeographic regions except the Palearctic.  Approximately 1 family and 2 species in North America and 1 family and 30 species worldwide

Life History and Ecology:

Members of the order Zoraptera are small (less than 4 mm) and usually found in rotting wood, under bark, or in piles of old sawdust.   They live in small aggregations and appear to scavenge on spores and mycelium of fungi, or occasionally, on mites and other small arthropods.   Little more is known about their biology.   Some Zoraptera are blind, pale in color, and wingless, while other members of the same species may be darkly pigmented with compound eyes and wings.   The winged individuals are rather uncommon; they may be dispersal forms.   The wings break off easily near the base, leaving only stubs.

Appearance of Immatures:

  1. Structurally similar to adults
  2. Always wingless

Appearance of Adults:

  1. Antennae 9-segmented
  2. Mouthparts mandibulate, hypognathous
  3. Soft-bodied, small (usually less than 3 mm)
  4. Wings often absent, with reduced venation when present
  5. Tarsi 2-segmented
  6. Cerci one-segmented

Economic Importance:

The Zoraptera do not have any economic significance.   They are rarely collected.

Major Families:

Zorotypidae — this single family includes all known species of Zoraptera.

Fun Facts:

  • Zoraptera is the third smallest insect order.  Only Mantophasmatodea and Grylloblattodea contain fewer species.
  • Some species of Zoraptera have been found living in the nests of termites and mammals.  No one is sure what these insects are doing there.
  • In most Zoraptera, there are two forms of adults: winged individuals are usually brown in color and have both eyes and ocelli, wingless individuals are usually blind and pale (unpigmented) in color.

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