Abstract 'Candidatus Cardinium', a recently described bacterium from the Bacteroidetes group, is involved in diverse reproduction alterations of its arthropod hosts, including cytoplasmic incompatibility, parthenogenesis and feminization. To estimate the incidence rate of Cardinium and explore the limits of its host range, 99 insect and mite species were screened, using primers designed to amplify a portion of Cardinium 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA). These arthropods were also screened for the presence of the better-known reproductive manipulator, Wolbachia. Six per cent of the species screened tested positive for Cardinium, compared with 24% positive for Wolbachia. Of the 85 insects screened, Cardinium was found in four parasitic wasp species and one armoured scale insect. Of the 14 mite species examined, one predatory mite was found to carry the symbiont. A phylogenetic analysis of all known Cardinium 16S rDNA sequences shows that distantly related arthropods can harbour closely related symbionts, a pattern typical of horizontal transmission. However, closely related Cardinium were found to cluster among closely related hosts, suggesting host specialization and horizontal transmission among closely related hosts. Finally, the primers used revealed the presence of a second lineage of Bacteroidetes symbionts, not related to Cardinium, in two insect species. This second symbiont lineage is closely allied with other arthropod symbionts, such as Blattabacterium, the primary symbionts of cockroaches, and male-killing symbionts of ladybird beetles. The combined data suggest the presence of a diverse assemblage of arthropod-associated Bacteroidetes bacteria that are likely to strongly influence their hosts' biology.