Webspinners, also known as embiopterans, are small insects that create silk webs in protected areas such as tree bark and crevices. These tiny creatures may seem harmless at first glance, but their webbing can become unsightly and cause damage to plants, especially in gardens and greenhouses.
To effectively remove webspinners from your property, it is essential to combine multiple strategies targeting their habitat and ability to reproduce. Understanding their life cycle and behavior will come in handy as you work towards a webspinner-free environment.
Some methods to consider include regular inspections, clearing away leaf litter, and using natural predators such as birds and spiders to help keep the webspinner population under control. By using a well-rounded approach, you’ll be on your way to eliminating these web-spinning insects.
Webspinner Species and Identification
Webspinners are small, inconspicuous insects belonging to the order Embioptera. There are around 400 known species distributed across the world, with varying colors ranging from dark brown to pale yellow. Adult males and females exhibit distinct features:
- Males: large, winged, with strong legs
- Females: smaller, wingless, with thread-like antennae
For example, Antipaluria urichi is a species native to Trinidad, while Oligotoma nigra inhabits Asia.
Habitat and Behavior
Webspinners prefer moist and dark habitats, like leaf litter, under stones, or in tree bark crevices. They are nocturnal creatures and feed on algae, lichen, and other organic matter. They create tunnels using their silk glands, which helps them navigate their environment and protect themselves from predators.
Life Cycle and Biology
The life cycle of a webspinner consists of three stages: egg, larva, and adult. After mating, the female lays her eggs within her tunnel, where she provides care and protection to her offspring. Webspinner larvae are similar to adults in appearance, but smaller.
The larvae undergo a variable number of molts before reaching adulthood. Males and females show different behaviors during their life cycle:
- Males: tend to disperse in search of mates, have a shorter life span
- Females: focus on maintaining their tunnels and caring for their young, live longer
Silk Glands and Tunnels
Webspinners are unique due to their silk-producing glands, located in their forelegs. Both males and females can produce silk, which is used to construct tunnels. These tunnels benefit the webspinners by:
- Providing shelter from predators
- Facilitating easier movement within their habitat
- Offering an ideal living environment for feeding and reproduction
Impacts of Webspinners
Webspinners, specifically the Oligotoma nigra from the Embioptera order, pose ecological threats in certain environments. For instance, they can become pests in the agricultural sector1. These creatures typically thrive in dark, tropical, and urban areas in the United States, especially the Southwest2.
Nuisance to Humans
Webspinners can be a nuisance to humans due to their webs and presence in homes. These pests have red bodies and wings but are not known to bite3. The life cycle of webspinners involves several stages, making it challenging to control their population in infested areas4.
- Webs: Webspinners are web-spinning pests that create silk structures for protection and mobility5.
- Pest issues: They can cause damage to cultivated plants, impacting agricultural production6.
Comparison of webspinner ecological threats and nuisances to humans
|Nuisance to Humans
|Red body, wings
|Red body, wings
Though webspinners can be troublesome pests, they help control other problematic insect populations. However, their potential harm to agriculture and their bothersome presence in homes make it important to manage and minimize their impact.
Recognizing Webspinner Infestations
Signs in the Home and Yard
Webspinners are small insects that can infest your home and garden. They prefer damp places, such as moist leaf litter and around date palms. Keep an eye out for:
- Pests: Look for small, elongated insects with a cylindrical abdomen.
- Garden: Check for damaged plants and leaves, as webspinners can feed on them.
- Moisture: Investigate damp areas where webspinners may congregate.
Common Places for Webspinners
Webspinners tend to hide in different areas of your home and yard. These are some common locations:
- Damp places: Under rocks or logs, in damp soil, or in leaf litter.
- Date palms: Webspinners can be found in the fronds of these fruit-bearing trees.
- Yard: They may also invade garden beds and plant pots.
It helps to know where to check for these pests, so you can stay proactive in preventing infestations.
|Under rocks, logs, damp soil
|Fronds of the trees
|Garden beds, plant pots
Knowing the signs and common places for webspinners will help you identify and address infestations quickly. Keeping your environment clean and free of excess moisture should make it less inviting for these pests.
Effective Webspinner Control Methods
Preventing Webspinner Entry
One way to control webspinners is by preventing their entry into your home. Make sure to:
- Seal cracks and gaps around doors and windows
- Repair damaged screens
- Install weather stripping on doors
- Regularly clean window sills and tracks
Traps and Pest Control Options
There are various traps and pest control options available, including:
- Sticky traps: Effective in capturing webspinners and other small insects
- Residual insecticides: Can be applied to areas where webspinners are commonly found
- Diatomaceous earth: A natural powder that dehydrates insects upon contact
- Traps and insecticides provide quick results
- Many options to choose from based on personal preference
- Some chemicals may be harmful to humans or pets
- Insecticides may not be effective against all species of webspinners
Natural Predators and Safe Solutions
Consider introducing natural predators into your garden, such as:
- Spiders: Known to prey on webspinners and other small insects
- Beetles: Various species can help control webspinner populations
- Termites: May also feed on webspinners
For safer, non-toxic solutions, try using:
- Vinegar: Mix equal parts water and vinegar, spray on webspinner-infested areas
- Vacuum cleaner: Suck up webspinners and their silk tunnels
|Ease of Use
|Pest Control Options
Note: Before using any control methods or introducing predators, consult with local experts or do thorough research to ensure the safety of your pets and the environment.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Webspinner
Cute Little Guys
Location: Tucson, AZ
August 6, 2011 10:27 pm
I’ve been seeing these bugs flying around/in my house for several months–probably since mid April. I think they’re cute. They’re about 1/2 to 3/4 inch long and brownish black. I couldn’t see its pincers with the naked eye, but they’re visible in the photo. I just can’t figure out what they are! Hopefully you can.
Signature: Thank you, Danielle Brugnone
Good morning Danielle,
You are being visited by Webspinners from the order Embiidina, which you can verify on BugGuide which indicates that they live in: “silk galleries are spun under stones and bark, in debris, cracks in soil or bark, among grass roots, lichens, mosses, and epiphytic plants winged males of some species are attracted to artificial light”. BugGuide also remarks that they are: “rapid runners, often run backwards; live in colonies (in galleries of spun silk) and exhibit limited maternal care for eggs and young.” They are benign insects that feed upon: “dead plant material plus lichens and mosses found around their galleries” according to BugGuide.
Letter 2 – Webspinner
Bug crawling on slime
I took these pictures last night – can’t find anything on your website to identify it, although it looks very unique and is quite easily described.
Could you please help me identify it? And maybe an opinion as to it’s destructiveness and whether I should try to eliminate it? Thank you,
This is a Webspinner. It is only the second photo we have ever received from the Order Embiidina, commonly called Webspinners or sometimes Footspinners. Some males are winged, and some males and all females are wingless. According to BugGuide: “silk galleries are spun under stones and bark, in debris, cracks in soil or bark, among grass roots, lichens, mosses, and epiphytic plants winged males of some species are attracted to artificial light” and they are “more numerous during the rainy season” and their food consists of “dead plant material plus lichens and mosses found around their galleries.” They are not destructive and there is no need to eliminate them.
Letter 3 – Webspinner
Location: Chandler, AZ
January 12, 2011 1:06 am
I found this bug in the house. My son tells me he sees them flying around the lights at night.
Goodness, that is one old dime. Your insect is a Webspinner in the order Embiidina. According to BugGuide, they are also called Footspinners. BugGuide also indicates they are: “more numerous during the rainy season” and “silk galleries are spun under stones and bark, in debris, cracks in soil or bark, among grass roots, lichens, mosses, and epiphytic plants winged males of some species are attracted to artificial light.”
Letter 4 – Webspinner
Location: Maricopa, AZ my living room
August 23, 2011 12:33 am
HI bug man, or bug gal =) me and my wife have noticed quite a few of these little pests running around and we really aren’t to sure if they are ear wigs or something else. I look forward to hearing back from you!
This is a Webspinner in the order Embiidina, and we are not certain why you are calling these benign creatures pests. According to BugGuide: “”silk galleries are spun under stones and bark, in debris, cracks in soil or bark, among grass roots, lichens, mosses, and epiphytic plants” and they feed on “dead plant material plus lichens and mosses found around their galleries.” They also exhibit some maternal care of the offspring.
Tank you daniel, for that explanation, I referred to them as a post because I didn’t know what they were and we find a few every night. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge
Letter 5 – Webspinner
Subject: ID strange bug?
September 19, 2012 12:48 am
I come across these bugs (just one at a time) in various parts of my home. I have seen them on the patio too. They’re usually walking but can fly. I probably see about 5 a week and usually in the evening. They seem harmless but I have no idea what they are, or if they cause damage – I was worried they’re termites, but they don’t look like any in the photos I’ve researched. Any idea? Thank you!
This creature is a Webspinner in the order Embiidina. According to BugGuide, they are benign insects that live in “silk galleries [that] are spun under stones and bark, in debris, cracks in soil or bark, among grass roots, lichens, mosses, and epiphytic plants winged males of some species are attracted to artificial light” and they are “more numerous during the rainy season.”
I actually found the answer on your site right after I sent this by searching for “pincers”. Definitely looks like a webspinner. Thanks!
Letter 6 – Webspinner
Subject: Small, cute, and a lifelong mystery to me
Location: Yucca Valley, California
August 19, 2013 1:05 am
I have been seeing these as long as I can remember first in San Diego and now in the high Mojave desert town of Yucca Valley. I have tried to identify them in the past to no avail probably due to my general cluelessness as to where in the insect world they might fit. Anyway this one decided to take a stroll on my arm tonight and my husband took a picture in hopes I would finally be enlightened. Thank you!
Signature: Claire Mojave
Dear Claire Mojave,
This is a primitive insect in the order Embiidina known as a Webspinner. According to BugGuide, they can be identified as being: “slender, usually brownish insects that may have wings (males) or be wingless (some males and all females); body of male flattened; body of female and immature more cylindrical; tarsi 3-segmented; basal segment of front tarsus greatly enlarged for producing silk from hollow hairs issuing on the basal and middle segments; cerci 2-segmented (but left cercus of some males 1-segmented).”
Letter 7 – Webspinner
Subject: Earwig? Termite? Both? Neither?
Location: San Diego, CA
April 5, 2014 11:54 am
I came across this strange creature (at least to me) in my home last night. It looks like a cross between an earwig and a termite. I’ve not seen something like this before. It’s about a half-inch long. Any idea what it could be?
The correct answer is neither. This is a Webspinner in the order Embiidina, and you can get additional information on BugGuide where it states their habitat is “silk galleries are spun under stones and bark, in debris, cracks in soil or bark, among grass roots, lichens, mosses, and epiphytic plants” and that they eat “dead plant material plus lichens and mosses found around their galleries”.
Letter 8 – Webspinner
Subject: Cute little thing
Location: Hudson, Florida
April 14, 2014 7:24 pm
Hello! We found this cute little guy just today and it really took a liking to us. We were wondering if you might know what it is?
Signature: Madde and Michaela
Hi again Madde and Michaela,
While we are confident that this is a Webspinner in the order Embiidina, we have not been able to locate an individual with matching antennae and wings on BugGuide. This unidentified species from Florida on BugGuide has similar antennae, but no wings. Sometimes only males are winged.
Letter 9 – Webspinner Carnage
Subject: Please identify
Geographic location of the bug: Tracy, California
Time: 02:16 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Could you please identify this insect. I found a few (~5) in my house over a few days this summer at night around my lights. They are 1/4-3/8 inch long
How you want your letter signed: Sfigurac
Thank you very much for the quick response.
Your information has been very informative and helpful.
Your website seems like an excellent resource which I definitely share with others.