Learn the Intricacies of Webspinning: Techniques and Tips

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Webspinners are fascinating insects that you might not know much about. They are small, elusive creatures belonging to the order Embioptera, which might be why they often fly under the radar. Despite their modest appearance, these insects boast unique characteristics that set them apart from other species.

As a webspinner enthusiast, you’ll be excited to discover their incredible ability to produce silk. Unlike spiders or silkworms that weave webs, webspinners create tunnels and chambers made of silk using their front legs. This feature not only helps them navigate their habitat but also offers protection from predators and harsh environmental conditions.

Another interesting aspect of webspinners is their social behavior. Many species are known for their close-knit colonies, where they exhibit a division of labor among colony members. Some individuals focus on gathering food, while others maintain and extend the silk tunnels. This level of cooperation and communication within their small, secluded silk homes is truly a captivating part of their lives.

What is a Webspinner?

Webspinners, also known as embioptera or embiids, are unique insects deserving your attention. Belonging to the order Embioptera, these fascinating creatures are known for their intriguing habits and features.

Webspinners are small, delicate insects with elongated bodies. Their most distinctive attribute is the ability to produce silk from their front legs. This fascinating feature allows them to create elaborate webs in which they live and navigate.

Some interesting points about webspinners include:

  • Mostly found in warm, humid climates such as the tropics and subtropics.
  • They are generally nocturnal, preferring to remain hidden during the day.
  • Males and females exhibit sexual dimorphism, with males having wings and females being wingless.

Webspinners are social insects often living together in large colonies, cooperating and sharing their silken homes. They feed primarily on plant materials, such as leaves and bark, using their powerful chewing mouthparts. In addition to their silk-producing capabilities, webspinners have other special features, like their enlarged front legs, which help them in web construction and movement.

So, the next time you come across this fascinating insect, take a moment to appreciate their unique abilities and characteristics. With their silk-spinning prowess and interesting social habits, webspinners truly stand out in the diverse world of insects.

Physical Features

Body Structure

Webspinners, known as insects in the order Embioptera, have a slender and elongated body structure. Their eyes and mouthparts are adapted for a specialized life under bark or leaf litter.

Wings

The wings of webspinners differ between males and females. Males typically have two pairs of wings, whereas females are wingless, allowing them to stay better hidden among the bark and leaf litter. As for the males, they are weak fliers with hind wings usually bigger than the forewings.

Size

Webspinner sizes can vary, but they usually have a correlation with their silk production due to their body size:

  • Larger webspinners need to invest more in silk and spinning, as their size makes them vulnerable to predators like birds and ants.
  • Smaller webspinners can more effectively hide within bark crevices and leaf litter, reducing the need for excessive silk production.

The table below compares some key characteristics of webspinners:

Characteristic Males Females
Wings Two pairs, weak fliers Wingless
Size Varies Varies
Habitat Bark, leaf litter Bark, leaf litter

These physical features enable webspinners to thrive in their unique environments and adapt to various situations.

Life Cycle

From Larva to Adult

The life cycle of a webspinner begins with the larva stage. You may be curious about the insect’s blood – it’s called hemolymph, which is different from the blood found in mammals. As the larva grows, it undergoes several molts until it becomes an adult.

Adult webspinners have distinct physical features that separate them from larvae. Some key characteristics include:

  • Developed wings (in males)
  • Functional reproductive organs
  • Hardened exoskeleton

Reproduction

Reproduction in webspinners involves males and females, with each playing a specific role. Males are usually winged and leave their own silk galleries in search of females. On the other hand, females are wingless and responsible for building and maintaining silk galleries to house their offspring.

Here’s a comparison table of male and female webspinner traits:

Traits Males Females
Wings Present Absent
Mobility Greater (wings enable flight) Limited (wingless)
Silk production No Yes
Gallery duties No Yes (build and maintain)

Once mating occurs, female webspinners lay eggs within their silk galleries. These eggs eventually hatch into larvae, and the life cycle begins anew. As a webspinner enthusiast, it’s crucial for you to understand and appreciate the fascinating stages of this insect’s life cycle.

Behavior and Habits

Creating a Home

Webspinners, a fascinating group of insects, have unique ways of creating their homes. In their natural habitat, they build tunnels and nests within walls, dead plant material, and leaf litter. As you might observe, these homes provide them with shelter and protection. For instance, they often construct silk-covered tunnels along the surfaces they occupy.

Feeding Habits

When it comes to their diet, webspinners primarily feed on dead plant material. Here’s an example of their feeding routine:

  • They venture out from their nests during the night to forage.
  • They consume organic matter, such as decaying leaves and wood.

It’s essential to note that they stay close to their homes while feeding to retreat quickly if disturbed.

Response to Threats

Webspinners have developed specific behaviors to respond to potential threats. If they feel threatened or disturbed, they quickly retreat into their tunnels or nests. This tactic enables them to avoid predators and other dangers in their environment. Remember, these insects rely on their well-constructed, hidden homes to keep them safe!

Habitat

Natural Habitats

Webspinners, being insects, thrive in a variety of environments. In nature, they often reside beneath rocks, moss, or lichens found on the ground or tree trunks. These surroundings provide them with the necessary shelter and humidity needed for survival. For example, you might spot webspinners under a damp rock or nestled among forest moss.

Colonies

These insects tend to live in colonies, which enables them to cooperate and share resources efficiently. Colonies can range from a small group to several hundred webspinners. Living in groups not only provides protection from predators, but also helps with the maintenance of their silk galleries. These structures protect webspinners from dehydration and provide a safe space for foraging and reproduction.

Urban Habitats

Webspinners have also adapted to urban environments, making walls, foundations, or even inside your house a potential habitat. Common hiding spots in urban settings include:

  • Wall crevices
  • Leaf litter or organic debris
  • Brick or stone structures

In these locations, webspinners can find the necessary humidity and shelter for them to thrive. It’s important to note that they are generally harmless to humans and rarely cause any serious damage to properties. So if you ever come across these fascinating insects in your backyard, you can observe their unique behaviors without worrying about any adverse effects.

Predators and Threats

As a webspinner enthusiast, you should be aware of the potential predators and threats that can harm your webspinners.

Spiders are known predators of webspinners. For example, jumping spiders and wolf spiders are common types that may prey on webspinners. To protect your webspinners, you can take some preventive measures:

  • Regular inspection: Monitor your webspinner habitat frequently to check for the presence of predators.
  • Habitat maintenance: Keep the area clean and free from debris, which can attract predators.

Comparing spiders and webspinners, you’ll notice some key differences that may affect their interactions:

Feature Webspinner Spider
Legs 6 legs 8 legs
Diet Typically feed on plant materials and decaying matter Predators that feed on insects and small animals
Silk production Produce silk from their front legs Produce silk from spinnerets at the rear

In summary, it’s essential to be aware of the predators and threats to your webspinners, such as spiders. Keep their habitat well-maintained and pay close attention to their environment to protect them from harm.

Silk Production

In the world of webspinners, silk production is a fascinating process. You might be curious about how these creatures create silk, the silk-producing glands, and its significance in their lives.

Webspinners possess specialized silk-producing glands called Malpighian tubule glands. Located in their abdomen, these glands play a crucial role in the production of silk fibers. For webspinners, producing silk is vital for various reasons like constructing shelters, protection from predators, and forming their living environment.

Silk production in webspinners is quite unique compared to other silk-producing arthropods. When they produce silk, it’s not in the form of threads like spiders, but in sheets. For example, imagine the silk they produce as a sort of “wallpaper” that covers their tunnels and chambers.

Here are some characteristics of webspinner silk production:

  • Produced by Malpighian tubule glands
  • Used primarily for shelter and protection
  • Created in sheets rather than threads

The silk production process in webspinners is an intriguing example of nature’s genius, providing these insects with the ability to create their habitat while ensuring their survival. Now that you have learned about webspinner silk production, you can appreciate the incredible world of these intriguing creatures.

Web Design in Nature and Technology

Webspinner Web Designs

Webspinners are wingless insects that create intricate web designs in nature. These web-like structures serve as their galleries for housing and protection. As a webspinner, you use your specialized silk-producing glands to weave these efficient and functional webs. Here’s a glimpse of their key features:

  • Wingless: Being wingless helps you navigate and maintain your webs, ensuring they remain in top condition.
  • Silk-producing glands: These glands enable you to create the vital threads for constructing your webs.
  • Galleries: Your webs provide a safe haven for you, offering shelter and protection from predators.

As a webspinner, your web designs bring astonishing complexity and harmony to the natural world.

Digital Web Design

In the realm of technology, web design as practiced by web designers and webmasters takes inspiration from webspinner webs in terms of creating user experiences. Just as you carefully construct your webs in nature, a professional web designer is responsible for crafting visually attractive, functional, and user-friendly websites. They utilize graphics, SEO optimization, and other techniques to enhance the user experience and drive traffic. Let’s make a comparison between webspinner web designs and digital web design:

Webspinner Web Designs Digital Web Design
Natural, silk-made webs Websites based on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
Galleries provide housing Web pages deliver content and services
Efficient and functional User-friendly and visually appealing

Digital web design involves various aspects, such as:

  • Graphics: Eye-catching visuals and images that capture the essence of a website’s purpose.
  • Webmaster: A person responsible for maintaining the website, ensuring it’s up-to-date and functional.
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization helps improve a site’s visibility on search engines, driving organic traffic.

In summary, web design is an exciting field that encompasses both the beauty of nature and the modernity of technology. Both webspinner web designs and digital web design share similarities in terms of functionality, user experience, and aesthetics, offering a unique perspective on the importance of responsive and efficient structures.

Reader Emails

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

Subject:  The night stalker
Geographic location of the bug:  San Diego, California
Date: 09/02/2017
Time: 01:24 PM EDT
Dear Mr. Bugman, it has been very hot here in San Diego, up to 100 degrees F. last night I encountered this little guy crawling on the bathroom wall inside my home. It is about 3/8″ long, 1/2″ if you include the antennae. My guess is that
it is either a drywood or dampwood termite swarmer. However, all of the photos I’ve seen online depict termites having wings that are much longer than their bodies. Also, supposedly the swarmers drop their wings upon landing, this little guy has his still intact. Lastly, I saw only one, not a “swarm.” Mr Bugman, is it time for me to call out an exterminator, or is this night stalker a termite imposter?
How you want your letter signed:  Marc fom San Diego

Webspinner

Dear Marc,
There is no need to call an exterminator.  This is NOT a Termite.  This is a Webspinner in the insect order Embiidina, as you can verify by comparing your image to this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide, they feed on:  “dead plant material plus lichens and mosses found around their galleries” and they are “rapid runners, often run backwards; live in colonies (in galleries of spun silk) and exhibit limited maternal care for eggs and young; winged males of some species come to lights.”  You may enjoy our Webspinner Dynasty posting.

Thank you for responding to my identification request. I am very happy to learn that it is not a termite.
Marc

Letter 2 – Webspinner

Subject: Is this a termite?
Location: Florida
January 4, 2015 12:52 am
I found this bug on my wall. Is this a termite?
Signature: Connie

Webspinner
Webspinner

Dear Connie,
This fascinating insect is known as a Webspinner, and we have one contributor who has written extensively about her experiences with Webspinners in her home.
  She even named all her Webspinners.

Thank you so much for your help!!  I had visions of my termites eating my house!  If I find another one, maybe I could send it to her? (just teasing!)

Letter 3 – Webspinner

Now for some whatsthatbug.com business:
I’ve been able to at least guess at most of my critters, thanks to a copy of Hogue’s classic Insects of the LA Basin, but this one has me stumped (see whazzat.jpg, attached). It was on a native Wild Buckwheat in my Encino, CA front yard, in mid-July, a couple of years ago. To give you an idea of scale, the flower head shown is maybe an inch in diameter. What is it?
Thanks,
Chuck

Hi Chuck,
We turned to Eric Eaton for help with this one, and his response has generated a new page for us. Here is what Eric has to say: “Ok, the top one is a webspinner, probably a male, as I think in the common specises the females are wingless. Used to be the order Embioptera, now it is something else. Thanks for sharing the nice images. Eric” Here is what Audubon has to say about Webspinners: “Uncommon insects, Webspinners are represented by only 10 species in North America, restricted to the Gulf states and the West Coast. There are about 150 species known worldwide. These brownish or yellowish insects live in colonies inside the silken galleries they spin among mosses, or in cavities in the soil. They have slender, cylindrical bodies with threadlike antennae, chewing mouthparts, short stout legs, and 1 or 2 asymmetrical appendages called cerci at the tip of the abdomen. Only males have 4 downy, brownish wings. The fore wings are longer than the hind wings and well separated from them. Webspinners spin silken webs from glands on the tarsi of their fore legs. Females eat mostly decayed plant matter, but males are carnivorous. When disturbed, Webspinners run rapidly backward to their nests, or sometimes play dead. Females lay clusters of elongated, curved eggs in the silk-lined tunnels, which they carefully guard. Metamorphosis is simple: both males and females become sexually mature, and the males gain wings.”

Letter 4 – Webspinner

Subject: We have new friends, what do we call them?
Location: Phoenix, AZ
May 18, 2014 10:09 pm
Dear Bugman,
A few of these just showed up in our house today, we’ve lived here for 4 years and have never seen them before. Could you help us figure out what to call them? They have antennae, what look like little pincers on their back end, and they have wings so they fly. They also seem to like light and they stay in one place for quite a while.
Thanks,
Rachel & Ethan
Phoenix, AZ
5-18-14
Signature: With Love

Webspinner
Webspinner

Dear Rachel & Ethan
We just created a thoroughly entertaining posting on Webspinners like the one in your image, and we hope you enjoy it.  Webspinners are benign insects that will not harm you or your home, so we are glad you made friends.

Wonderful!
Thank you so much, Daniel!!
R&E

Letter 5 – Webspinner

Subject: This fell out of my friends hair!
Location: Edmonton
September 16, 2014 6:47 pm
Hi,
Not sure what this is? Haven’t never seen one before.
Live in Edmonton, Alberta
Signature: Thanks a bunch

Webspinner
Webspinner

This looks like a benign Webspinner to us.  Some species have wings and others do not.

Letter 6 – Webspinner

Subject:  Flying Insect
Geographic location of the bug:  Phoenix, AZ
Date: 10/06/2017
Time: 03:44 PM EDT
There’s a bug that likes to come through my screens at night – mostly in the monsoon/late summer/early fall season. They like light and seem to be harmless and they have landed on me before with no problems.  They are usually only one or max two that are inside at any given time. They are pretty small. I would say somewhere between a small black ant and small earwig size. They fly and have translucent/white wings that lie flat, folded over one another the length of their body.  The length of the wings seems to line right up with the end of their bodies.  They have little “things” coming off their ends that someone told me meant they were earwigs.  I have seen flying earwigs before and the earwigs we have here don’t look like this guy.  They don’t behave, look or smell the same at all (these guys don’t smell and I think earwigs stink).
How you want your letter signed:  Buggy-Bug-Bug

Webspinner

Dear Buggy-Bug-Bug,
This looks to us like a Webspinner in the insect order Embiidina based on this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide:  “rapid runners, often run backwards; live in colonies (in galleries of spun silk) and exhibit limited maternal care for eggs and young; winged males of some species come to lights.” 

Letter 7 – Webspinner

Subject:  Help identify
Geographic location of the bug:  Paso Robles
Date: 08/01/2018
Time: 09:38 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi Bugman,
My friend has these at her house. Is this a termite?
How you want your letter signed:  Prisha

Webspinner

Dear Prisha,
Though it resembles a winged Termite alate, this is actually a benign Webspinner in the order Embiidina.  We had one reader submit a Webspinner Dynasty inquiry after she allowed them to cohabitate in her bathroom.

Letter 8 – Webspinner

Subject:  Flying Insects at Night
Geographic location of the bug:  Lemon Grove, Ca (East County San Diego)
Date: 09/12/2021
Time: 05:24 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman :  I have seen several of these in my house, at night. I see them flying and land on walls or they drop down to the floor or counter. When on the wall they tend to just stay there moving their head around almost as if looking at me. Sometimes they’ll have their backs arched looking behind them while standing still on the wall.
How you want your letter signed:  Mina

Webspinner

Dear Mina,
This is a benign Webspinner and they are attracted to lights.  You may enjoy this old posting from our site called Webspinner Dynasty.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Webspinners

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • sorry for the comment but i don’t think male embiopteras are carnivorous, their mouthparts are modified that they can not eat. they often die a few weeks after they reach maturity.

    Reply
  • We also have a house in Paso Robles and have seen a bunch of these over the past few weeks. Let me know if you find a way to keep them out of the house.

    Reply
  • Do they bite or carry disease I met him this morning in my living room floor in

    Reply

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