Spider webs. We’ve all walked into them…

But, have you ever wondered about them?

How strong is a spider web?

Spider silk is stronger than a strand of steel of the same diameter! It retains its strength even when stretched during wind, rain, and insects attempting to escape. Spider silk is even tougher than Kevlar. 

It’s so strong that Polynesian fishermen have been using silk in their angling for centuries and this trick is still in use today.

Rain drops on a spider web

The elaborate designs

All spiders, except for the Black Widow who ops for a haphazard curb, or web, appeal, have a unique design to their webs. The purpose of the design is to attract prey- a case where “build it and they will come” actually reigns true. However, this is a bit risky to the spider itself as the design may also attract predators since the web is easier to see.

The silk that makes up the web is also shiny to attract certain insects that see in UV wavelengths of light.

Intricate spider web in the Prescott National Forest

About spider silk:

Spiders use a few different types of silk for various purposes. Ampullate (minor) for example, is used to build webs and to immobilize prey. Flagelliform is used in the middle of the web where prey will be trapped. Flagelliform works with Aggregate which produces the sticky glue that coats the web.

Other silk uses:

Spiders don’t just use their silk to build webs. They also use it to make little homes for themselves to sleep in and take shelter. Some spiders, especially babies, make silk sails which they use to glide through the wind enabling them to travel long distances. This way of travel is ‘ballooning”. Spiders also use silk as elevators to move up and down their webs or anywhere else.

Spider webs are innovative

Scientists are developing new ways in which humanity can benefit from the use of spider silk. The strength of the spider silk only scratches the surface. Spider webs create vibrations when prey is in the web. These vibrations are now known to produce harmonies that tell the spider what kind of prey is waiting for them. Ways to utilize this ability in data information are being researched.

In ancient Rome and Greece, soldiers would use cobwebs to stop a wound from bleeding. Scientists have discovered that spider silk contains antibiotic materials. Attempts to create artificial spider silk for this benefit are in the works.

More wonder facts about spider webs:

  • Spiders rebuild their webs often, some species do so every day.
  • Spiders recycle their silk.
  • When creating a web, the silk comes out of the spider’s body in liquid form before solidifying.
  • This liquid is known as “spinning dope.”
  • Spiders leave old egg sacs in their webs as a decoy to predators signaling that the web has been abandoned.

spider web mid-way complete

There are 39 common species of spiders in Arizona, so next time you see a web think of all the wonder!

To learn more amazing facts about spider webs visit

treehugger.com/captivating-facts-about-spider-silk-4868351

daily.jstor.org/surprising-facts-about-spiderwebs/

For more natural history and to sign up for our nature classes, visit highlandscenter.org/adult-programs

Wonder, Explore, Discover!

 

 

 

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