Insect cuticle as a natural biocomposite includes many favored microstructures which have been refined over centuries and endow the cuticle eminent mechanical properties. This paper first studies the microstructures of chafer cuticle through SEM observations. Several peculiar fiber configurations and fiber-ply arrangements such as branched fiber, acanth-fiber and helicoid plies are observed. These microstructures are useful for man-made fiber-reinforced composites to improve their mechanical properties. Then, a special configuration of the branched fiber found-in chafer cuticle is in details analyzed through a mechanical model and experimental verification. The pullout force of fibers as an index is firstly studied through parameter study. The factors, which can improve the pullout forces, are identified. Finally, the maximal pullout force of the branched fiber is experimentally tested and compared with that of plain straight fiber. It is proved that the maximal pullout force of branched fibers is obviously greater than that of the plain straight fibers. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.