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Because we were eager to participate in International Rock Flipping Day, we peeked under some rocks in our yard this morning.

Flipping rocks was somewhat disappointing at first. It has been the third driest summer on record in central Arizona, and because the summer is when we normally get most of our precipitation, we are really dry. The terms dry as a bone, parched, and desiccated come to mind.  Most of the rocks we looked under would normally have isopods (rolypolies), ants or earwigs, but we didn't see any of those. Occasionally we might see a scorpion. We didn't see any of those either.

What we did find was this:

Any ideas what might cause these white tunnels? I'll give you a hint:  it isn't a type of spider, although it is made of silk.

In fact, the tunnels are made by an insect. Here are some photos I took of one earlier this summer.

Does anyone remember what it was?

(If you want to find out the answer, check this previous post.)

All in all, we saw something we wouldn't have otherwise seen, and realized how much the lack of rain is changing the environment for even tiny things that live under rocks. And best of all, we got outside and had some fun.

What did you find?

I found an unusual insect this morning. Here is a peek:

webspinner male

This is a webspinner. It may look a little like a termite reproductive (or swarmer), but I can tell it is not because it has bulges on its front legs. Those bulges contain special glands that make silk. Webspinners are the only insects that make silk with their legs!

webspinner male

This is a male webspinner. It is a male because it has wings and because it was out and about, not hidden. Females lack wings and hide under layers of silk laid under stones, piles of leaves or on bark of trees. I have only seen a female a few times.

webspinner male

Webspinners (Order Embioptera) are small, shy and are completely harmless. Not much is known about them because they are reclusive. Webspinners have two appendages at the rear, and some people think they may be related to earwigs, our bug of the week last week.

I was able to find a bit of video about a tropical species on YouTube. Unfortunately the embed function is denied, so try this link or type this text into search to find the video. Silk tents of the Web Spinner insect - Attenborough Life in the Undergrowth

The YouTube video is a small part from the Life in the Undergrowth movie, starring David Attenborough, available on DVD.

Let me know if you’d like to learn more about fascinating webspinners.