Embioptera (webspinners) rank as one of the most
neglected orders of insects. Most people have never
heard of them, and even many insect specialists and
collectors are relatively unfamiliar with the group.
This is unfortunate since they are exceptionally interesting
insects. They, along with Hymenoptera, Trichoptera,
and Lepidoptera among the insects, are able to spin
silk. However, they are the only insects that spin
silk as both adults and immatures. Also, they spin
silk from glands in their front legs. They use the
silk to make galleries in which they live subsocially.
Some species appear to exhibit varying degrees of
maternal care and nymphs and adults often live in
the same galleries.
They occur throughout the world, but are most diverse
and abundant in tropical and subtropical regions.
Some species live in relatively dry regions and others
live in cool cloud forests. Many are arboreal spinning
their silk galleries on the surfaces of trees. Others
are subterranean and can be found in galleries under
rocks. There are a little more than 400 species described,
but the number of undescribed species in collections
may actually place the species diversity at over 2000.
Given that embiids are relatively secretive and few
collectors actively attempt to find them, it seems
likely that many more species will eventually be discovered
once collecting effort approaches that for other taxa.