Harvard University's Caribbean Insects: Thysanura

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DESCRIPTION: Small, 4-7mm long. Slender yellowish or brownish body with wings only in some males. When wings are present, they are membranous with weak veins. No ocelli. Tarsi are three-segmented, with the front basal segments greatly enlarged (these are the silk glands). The legs are short with thickened hind femora. Cerci have one or two segments and are frequently asymmetrical. Chewing mouthparts. Antennae are short and threadlike with 16-32 segments. Females and nymphs exhibit few of the defining characters between families, so mature males must be used for identification to family level.

DIVERSITY: Worldwide: about 150-200 species currently named, may expand up to 2000 as more work is done.

RANGE: Tropical and other warm-climate regions

HABITAT: Tropical forests to arid regions.

ECOLOGY: Undergoes simple metamorphosis. Adults build silken galleries in soil and debris among moss and lichen. Silk is spun from the silk glands. Adults very rarely leave their gallery, but are capable of running backwards rapidly. The cerci are highly sensitive and are used to guide this backward movement. Embiids will occasionally play dead. Dead plant material is the main food source. Eggs are laid in the silken galleries and covered with chewed food, then attended by the females.

REFERENCES: Ross, E.S. 1982. Embiidina. Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms, S.P. Parker, Ed. Volume 2. McGraw-Hill. 387.
Ross, E.S. 1944. A revision of the Embioptera, or web-spinners, of the New World. Proc. U.S. Natl. Mus. 94(3175): 401-504


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