Embioptera (web spinners)

Embioptera fast facts

  • 400 species world wide, 12 European species, but no British species. However it is estimated that there may be around 2000 species world wide.
  • Hemimetabolous
  • Spin silken tunnels to live in
  • Females wingless, males weak fliers or wingless
  • Body length up to 12 mm long
  • Compound eyes, males have larger eyes than females
  • Tarsus of front leg swollen and contains silk glands
  • Found in leaf litter, moss, bark and dead leaves
  • Feed on decaying vegetation
  • Gregarious (share tunnels)
  • Also known as Embiidina

embioptera, web spinner, adult male

The Embioptera are commonly known as web-spinners. They live in the soil, leaf litter, under stones and bark in silken protective tunnels. They are uncommon, but are found world wide, though most occur in tropical forests.

They have a silk gland in the tarsus of their front leg, and even the young nymphs have productive silk glands. Their antennae are long and filiform, and they have two cerci. Their bodies are usually brown, and the males may have smoky brown wings. They feed on leaf litter, moss and bark.

The females are similar to the males (see above), but are wingless. Females tend their eggs and young nymphs. Embiopterans rarely leave their tunnels, and tend to extend the tunnel towards any food source. They can move backwards down their tunnels at great speed. Mature males, however do leave the tunnels to disperse to new sites. This usually happens at night, and they fly, but are weak fliers.

When they reach a safe new site they mate with the resident female(s), and are sometimes eaten.

In cold regions they retreat deep into the soil during the winter months.

They are classed as gregarious as individuals use each others tunnels, but there is little or no other co-operation, so they cannot be classed as social.