Napalm Death’s warm-up act, right? Try again.
A dating app for young-at-heart swingers? You’ll never get it. Webspinners are insects that grow to 1cm long and live on the hanging roots of tropical plants such as orchids and bromeliads.
Entomological pass notes! Whoop! Why are they in the news? They are Britain’s first new insect type for 100 years, showing how globalisation is changing what we find in our gardens.
Couldn’t they do with a better name? After all, spiders, last time I looked, also spin webs. You’d think. They are also known as Aposthonia ceylonicaand generally hail from Thailand. They are members of the Embioptera order that joins 24 other insect orders found in the UK.
Britain is turning into a bug hotel overrun by foreigners who can’t speak English! It’s Jacob Rees-Mogg’s nightmare come true! Calm down. “They [webspinners] do not damage the ecosystem or ecological community of the new region,” says the biology professor Janice Edgerly-Rooks.
How did they get here? They hitched a ride on imported plants and now live in a posh greenhouse in Surrey.
So they’re stowaways. Didn’t that set off the alarm on Sajid Javid’s desk? Apparently not. Webspinners have been here since at least last summer, when several were spotted with their young inside silk webs in the orchid collection at the Royal Horticultural Society’s glasshouses at Wisley.
Typical immigrants. They come here, live on benefits, hundreds to a room, don’t integrate … To be fair, they can’t survive outdoors. Indeed, female webspinners don’t have wings and spend their lives inside silken webs that they have fashioned into tunnels and chambers.
Disgusting female oppression. Has #Metoo left behind female webspinners?Not yet, but they often eat males after mating, which is one way of sticking it to the patriarchy.
So males have wings? Yes, and they use them to fly away from the colony as soon as they reach adulthood in their (frankly crazy) quest for a mate. Males don’t eat and (understandably) live less long than the females.
What do they eat? Males – weren’t you not paying attention? They also eat leaf litter, moss, bark and lichen.
What was the last new order of British insects? Stick insects (Phasmatodea) were first found in Devon in 1909 and went on to dodge taxes and citizenship tests by disguising themselves as sticks.
Stop being silly. The UK hosts 20,000 of the world’s estimated 1m species of insects, but not until now have webspinners, typically found in tropical or subtropical climes, been found in such a cool environment as Britain.
Delightfully phlegmatic entomologist analysis please? Dr Andy Salisbury says webspinners’ arrival is “neither good nor bad news”, but rather “interesting”.
Isn’t silk production good for the economy, proving yet again that immigration is a boon and that Nigel Farage should be thrown into a tank of tarantulas? Sadly, there is no suggestion that webspinners’ silk is economically viable.
Don’t say: “Ugh, an earwig in the orchids. Where’s the flyswatter?”
Do say: “How marvellous that Brexit Britain is being enriched by foreigners.”