silk embioptera social insect entomology

Silk-spinning and Sub-social

The Embioptera

Isn’t it ironic that I should never have researched members of an insect order that I find most fascinating? I am referring to the foot-spinners (or Embioptera as they are scientifically called).

I became interested in them during the time I was working on my PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra in the early 1970s. At that time sixty five species of Embioptera had been described from Australia, but in tropical countries there are many more species. These approximately one centimetre long, darkish and ant-like insects (but without a narrow waist) have a life-long ability to spin silk with glands located on their front legs, hence their vernacular name of “foot-spinners”. Their silk retreats or nests can be found on fence posts, tree stumps and rocky outcrops. Continue reading