Webspinners Embioptera

Class: Insecta

Order: Embioptera

Number of families: 8 families


Webspinners are small to medium insects, ranging from 0.06 to 0.78 inches (1.5 to 20 millimeters) in length. They have long, narrow bodies that are usually brown or black in color. Their distinctive head has chewing mouthparts that are directed forward. The antennae (an-TEH-nee), or sense organs, are long and threadlike. They have compound eyes, with each eye having multiple lenses, but no simple eyes, each with a single lens.

The legs are short and thick. Both adults and larvae (LARvee), or the developing young form of the animal, are easily distinguished from other insects by their enlarged front feet. These feet contain about one hundred silk glands. The glands are used to spin silk into a network of narrow, hollow tubes, or galleries, that make up the webspinner's home. Their legs are built in such a way that they can move forward and backward with equal agility and speed. Both winged and wingless males may occur in the same species, but the larvae and females are always wingless. All four of the male's wings are similar in size and shape. In flight the wings stiffen through increased blood pressure within special chambers inside each wing. At rest the chambers deflate and the wings lay flat over the body. They are capable of bending or crumpling at any point without damage and are easily bent forward to allow for easy backward movement through the narrow galleries.

The abdomen appears ten-segmented. The eleventh segment is small and difficult to see. The abdomen ends in a pair of short, fingerlike projections bristling with tiny hairs. These phylum class subclass • order monotypic order suborder family structures function like antennae and help to guide their backward movement within the galleries.

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