Mysterious Webs

Spider Web in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Beautiful Spider Web (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

It’s Halloween and homes are decorated with spooky ghosts floating in the trees, gravestones erupting from the lawn and pumpkins with ghoulish grins glowing on the front porch.  And then there are spider webs; big ones that run the length of the porch, smaller ones woven through tree branches and the real ones, complete with spiders, in the corner of the front window.

A Garden Spider's massive web in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A Garden Spider’s massive web (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Try as they will, the Halloween tricksters are no match for the crafty arachnid and its ability to create the perfect web.  It is an unsurpassed expertise no human could hope to master, rightfully so, but they still try.  With cans of aerosols and strings and artificial webbing, they continue to grasp for the artistic techniques of the secretive spider.  So, how do they do it?  How do those web-masters possess the aptitude to create such magnificent examples of their dexterity?

Web with morning dew in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Web with morning dew (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

The spider’s web starts with a proteinaceous silk extruded from its spinnerets, which is a gland located at the tip of their abdomen.  These glands form safety lines, sticky silk for trapping prey and fine silk for wrapping meals for later.  Some spiders have multiple spinnerets, while others have only one.  And some spiders have the ability to spin up to eight different types of silk.  Making a web is an energy draining process for a spider, due to the amount of protein required.  As the web begins to lose its shape or stickiness (usually after a day or two), the spider will consume it, essentially restoring some energy while recycling the original web. A spider’s silk has a tensile strength greater than the equivalent weight of steel, while having the benefit of elasticity.  After all, wasn’t that how Spider Man was able to stop a runaway train?

Glistening Web in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Glistening Web (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

The actual construction of the web is a very interesting process.  Since a web spans a distance much wider than the size of the spider, the spider has to release a thread that drifts to another point and adheres itself.  The spider “feels” this tension and proceeds to go back and forth across this line until it has the desired strength.  At that stage, it creates a strand that droops down and connects to a lower point, tightens this line to form a Y shape, and continues the procedure going back to the center of the Y in a series of V connections.  At that point you have a pie with lots of pieces, which are then tied together as the spider circles round and round connecting the strands.  Some of the silk used is sticky for capturing prey, while other silk is soft so the spider can travel without getting stuck.  Most webs are only around for a day or two, so it’s a wonderful sight to witness one freshly constructed.  Except when you walk face first into one . . .

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Comments

  1. Love the webs!

    • Thank you! A few of the webs I photographed a while back, not knowing what I would use them for. The detail and intricacy of them always fascinates me.

  2. Dina Ferrante says:

    I’ve always had an odd fascination with spider webs so I found this article particularly interesting. Thank you Kathy for the info and insight. Always a great read!

    • Thank you, Dina. I had a great time researching how orb spiders create their webs, and learning that they “recycle” them as well! It’s been a lot of fun sharing with readers and I always appreciate feedback.

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