Ross, Edward S. California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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A peculiar order of silk-spinning, orthopteroid insects, commonly called the embiids or web spinners, which are related to termites. The order Embioptera (also known as Embiidina or Embiodea) comprises about 300–400 described species, which are chiefly tropical in distribution; however, the number of unclassified species may amount to 1000–2000. The embiid body is linear and supple. Adult web spinners vary in length from 3 to 20 mm (0.12 to 0.8 in.). The legs are short with three-segmented tarsi. The forelegs are adapted for spinning silk, and the hindlegs are adapted for reverse locomotion. Cerci are short, two-segmented, and tactile. The head is prognathus, with orthopteroid mouthparts. Metamorphosis is incomplete. Female embiids are neotenic (retaining some larval or immature characters in adulthood) and wingless (apterous). Males are usually winged (alate) [see illustration], but they are apterous in certain genera and species. The wings are subequal and elongate, with the vannal fold being obsolete. Venation is simple, with the veins centered in pigment bands and separated by hyaline stripes. The wings are flexible when in repose and folded over the back, but are stiffened when extended for flight by the blood pressure in the saclike R1 (radial) veins. Flight is a poorly directed, whirling flutter. See also: Insecta; Pterygota
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