Abstract Design of attachment devices in insects varies enormously in relation to different functional loads. Many systems, located on different parts of the body, involve surfaces with particular frictional properties. Such systems evolved to attach parts of the body to each other, or to attach an insect to the substratum by providing fast and reversible attachment/detachment. Among these systems, there are some that deal with predefined surfaces, and others, in which one surface remains unpredictable. The first type of system occurs, for example, in wing-locking devices and head-arresting systems and is called probabilistic fasteners. The second type is mainly represented by insect attachment pads of two alternative designs: hairy and smooth. The relationship between surface patterns and/or mechanical properties of materials of contact pairs results in two main working principles of the frictional devices: mechanical interlocking, or maximization of the contact area. We give an overview of the functional design of two main groups of friction-based attachment devices in insects: probabilistic fasteners and attachment pads.