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Insect Identification Key
Order Embioptera: the webspinners

Smoky wings, long thorax, cercil
This webspinner displays the smoky-colored wings common to male webspinners. The tips of two small cerci are barely visible beneath the wings at the rear end of the insect. The pictured insect is a male of the species known as Saunders' embiid Oligotoma saundersii. Photo credit: S. Dean Rider, Jr.

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in the order Embioptera!

Members of this order include: webspinners.

Etymology: Embioptera comes from the Greek words embios, which means lively, and and pteron which means wing. These insects, however, are not particularly speedy or agile flyers, so the description remains a mystery. Some authorities have suggested it refers to some male webspinners, which flutter their wings.

General characteristics:
• small (4-15 mm long)
• pale-colored
• long, cylindrical body with a thorax about a long as the abdomen
• some males have long and narrow, smoky-colored, membranous wings; other males are wingless
• all females are wingless
• two short cerci, which are dissimilar in size and shape in some males
hemimetabolous metamorphosis (egg — nymph — adult)

Embiopterans
These are the male and female of the same species of webspinner, Embia major. The male has wings, while the female is wingless. The male has two different-sized cerci, but the female’s cerci are the same size. They do share the long antennae, and the quite long thorax. Illustration credit: A.D. Imms’ paper in Transactions of the Linnean Society of London Zoology, 1913.

Number of described species worldwide: about 350

Classification:
Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Embioptera

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Classification note: Occasionally, you may see this order listed as Embiodea or Embiidina.

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the order for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz, DailyGraceCards.com; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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