Behavior And Reproduction

Webspinners spend most of their lives inside their silk galleries. The galleries maintain a moist environment, provide clear routes to food sources, and serve as shelters from predators (PREH-duh-ters), or animals that hunt other animals for food. The galleries are slightly wider than the webspinners to allow the sensory hairs covering their bodies to remain in constant contact with the walls. Some species add bits of vegetable materials and their own waste to the outside gallery walls to provide additional camouflage and protection. Both larvae and adults are capable of spinning silk, and the galleries are continuously expanded over or into new food supplies. Webspinners live in groups with one or more adult females and their young. When threatened, they will retreat backwards into the silken tubes or, on occasion, pretend to be dead.

On warm afternoons or after the first rains following the dry season, winged males take to the air in search of mates. Mating takes place within the safety of the gallery. Males use their mouthparts to hold the female's head while mating. Because of their lack of mobility wingless or reduced-winged males often mate with their sisters. Males die soon afterward, and the females lay a single layer of eggs in a batch in the gallery. In some species, the females are able to reproduce by parthenogenesis (PAR-thuh-no-JEH-nuh-sihs), a process where the young develop from unfertilized eggs. Females guard their eggs and young. In some species, females coat their eggs with their own waste and chewed up bits of vegetable material, while others move the eggs about inside the galleries. The young strongly resemble the adults and develop gradually through a series of molts, or shedding of their exoskeleton, or hard outer covering. Wing pads develop only in the male larvae of winged species.

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