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Mark

A web-spinner (Order Embiidina) in Britain

Web-spinners are one of the few insect Orders in the world that we don’t get in Britain, and I have never managed to set eyes on one when abroad. So it was a surprise and a pleasure to find one in Buckinghamshire on Friday 16th July. Long known as Embioptera, web-spinners are now properly known as Embiidina.

The web-spinner Haploembia solieri (Rambur, 1842)

The web-spinner Haploembia solieri in its tube-web

Is it a new insect Order for Britain?! Well, not really, as it has been imported from Italy on some building stone. It has however, succeeded in surviving outdoors for about two months. In any case, Darren Mann tells me that there have been previous British records of imported web-spinners that he’s heard about. Identification to species could be difficult but World Wide Webspinners is a good resource and this Italian website looks promising and has some good photos. Haploembia solieri (Oligotomidae) is my current best guess.

5th May 2012 update: I have now identified the specimen as an adult male of Haploembia solieri (Rambur, 1842) thanks to this paper by E.S. Ross (1966) on The Embioptera of Europe and the Mediterranean region.

Also present on Friday was a nest of an ant which I suspect to be Lasius neglectus though that must await expert confirmation. This is a potentially invasive alien which has been detected once before in Britain, at Hidcote Manor, where eradication was undertaken.

The insects were found on some blocks of tufa at a site in north Bucks. These were quarried in Italy and imported to Britain as building material about two months ago, complete with a covering of vascular plants, mosses and associated animals. They have been sat on pallets in the open since then and are very desiccated.

Identification Junkie syndrome

Most people, on seeing, say, an unusual bird in their garden, will want to know what it is. What’s its name? The pleasure of seeing the bird is incomplete without identifying it. Some people take this to extremes and become birders with big lists and big petrol bills. Some people go further. This blog is going to cover anything and everything to do with my personal natural history quest which has so far resulted in me seeing 5,397 species in Britain and Ireland at last count (7.ii.2009).

The idea of an “identification junkie” I first heard from Ian Green of Greentours – he is one!