Embioptera Click to enlarge image
Web spinner (Order Embioptera) Image: Andrew Howells
© Australian Museum

Web spinners belong to the Order Embioptera.

What do web spinners look like?


  • 4 mm - 15 mm in length.


  • Long and column-like.
  • Appears hard.


  • Bead-like.
  • Never longer than body.


  • Usually small, well separated, and often kidney-shaped.


  • For chewing or munching.
  • Held forwards at rest.


  • Two pairs (males only) if present.
  • Both pairs membranous, similar in size and spatula shaped.
  • Both pairs have few wing veins but the wing maybe pigmented giving it the appearance that it has veins.
  • At rest the wings are held flat to body, overlap and do not extend to tip of abdomen.


  • Six legs
  • Bottom segment of front tarsi (toes) greatly enlarged and bulbous. This segment contains numerous glands for silk production.

Abdomen tip:

  • Two short cerci (tails) with two segments.
  • In males right cerci differs in size and shape to the left.

Where are web-spinners found?

  • They are confined to silken nests, which have many tunnels.
  • The nests are spun on bark surfaces, and rocks or among crevices and leaf litter.
  • Due to their secretive nature they are rarely seen.

What do web-spinners do?

  • They form large colonies sharing living quarters much like humans share an apartment block.
  • When disturbed, they run backward into silken tunnels. Their wings can flex over their head to allow backward movement into the tunnels.
  • They are weak fliers that flutter; insect blood (hemolymph) is pumped into the upper veins to stiffen the wings during flight. Males tend to only fly when in search of a reproductive mate.
  • They primarily feed on dead and decaying plant material but are known to feed on living lichen and moss.
  • They are active during the night and are attracted to light.

What looks similar?

  • Nothing due to their unique anatomical features and lifestyle.