Termites are a group of detritophagous eusocial insects which consume a wide variety of decaying plant material, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, and soil humus. They are easily identified by the typically soft-bodied and unpigmented worker caste for which they have been colloquially termed “white ants”; however, they are not ants, to which they are distantly related. About 2,972 extant species are currently described, 2,105 of which are members of the family Termitidae.
Termites comprise the infraorder Isoptera, or alternatively the epifamily Termitoidae, within the order Blattodea (along with cockroaches). Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from cockroaches, as they are deeply nested within the group, and the sister group to wood eating cockroaches of the genus Cryptocercus. Previous estimates suggested the divergence took place during the Jurassic or Triassic. More recent estimates suggest that they have an origin during the Late Jurassic, with the first fossil records in the Early Cretaceous.