Insects and their Allies  

Embioptera: web spinners

Web-spinners are small insects ranging from 4-15 millimetres in body length. They are rarely seen as they spend most of their lives within the silken galleries they construct, although male web-spinners may be attracted to lights at night. Web-spinners are recognised by the following features:

Notoligotoma nitens
Notoligotoma nitens

  • Elongated, cylindrical body
  • Enlarged front tarsi which contains silk glands used to create the galleries they live in
  • Short legs
  • 2 pairs of membranous wings in some male species. All females are wingless
  • 2 short cerci, which in male web-spinners are unequal in size and shape

Notoligotoma nitens occurs from Queensland, southwards to Victoria. It is commonly found inhabiting lichens which grow on ledges, bark flakes and fence posts. Adults are glossy black in colour.

Life Cycle
Male web-spinners only live for a short time and those species with wings fly in search of other mates. After mating female web-spinners either lay their eggs in an established gallery or disperse to begin a new colony. The female protects her eggs and on hatching the nymphs immediately begin to spin silken galleries of their own. The nymphs resemble the adults and live together with other members of their family.

All stages of web-spinners feed entirely on plant matter which includes leaves, bark, mosses and lichens. Web-spinners extend their silken galleries to obtain new food sources. Adult male web-spinners do not feed.

Metoligotoma species
Metoligotoma species

Web-spinners are found in many environments throughout Australia despite the fact they are not well known. They construct their silken nests in sheltered locations such as under rocks or bark, in soil or plant litter and in old wood.

Metoligotoma species prefers to live in leaf litter and occurs mostly in coastal areas from central Queensland to Tasmania.