Silk Strong as Steel

Spiders are very good engineers with an ability to form a web material that defies strength that can be attained from such a small strand. When compared to very strong materials that humans build with, it actually has the same tensile strength as steel when measured at the same weight of each material.

So how can such a small insect produce such a unique and strong material? Spiders are born with spinneret glands in their abdomen. Each species of spiders have a different number of these glands and each produce a different type of material.  Spiders may have as many as five to eight different silk producing glands. Some is produced sticky, while some is fluffy. While constructing their sticky web as a trap for food, they carefully and slowly move in a way so as not to get stuck themselves. They are assisted by having feet that is covered in a non stick coating. Also they can produce a web material that is thick and strong in order to suspend the spider and drop its entire body weight safely to another level of construction. In addition to using these miraculous silk producing spinneret glands, some spiders have brush like designs on their legs that can give the silk a different texture to make it more fuzzy and cover a wider area with a more tangled and dense web. More interesting uses that a Spider web is used for, is transportation. They can shoot the silk in a vertical pattern to form a balloon or parachute like structure, and then ride the wind to spread out their population over a wider area. The many inventive ways a spider uses its silky web is truly amazing.

Even more amazing is how the web gets its strength. Although its relative strength can be compared to steel, it is the flexibility or elasticity that makes it even more versatile and strong for building. If the web material was simply a strong rigid material, it may be very strong for a short amount of time, but then it could break under a sudden impact. However the spider silk is very flexible; allowing it to blow in the wind, be stretched by other insects, animals or humans and stay relatively intact. Therefore when a spider orb is carefully placed to attract and capture food, it can absorb the impact of a flying insect, stretch enough to stay intact then allow the stickiness of the web to capture its prey. It can be compared with other strong human made products such as the material that is used in bullet proof vests. These vests are effective due to the fact that they are constructed with many different small strands of material. These strong flexible strands flex and absorb the impact of a bullet travelling at thousands of feet per second. The spider web works in the same manner, and there is even talk of using research to incorporate spider web silk into a next generation of bullet proof vests.

Many spiders can be identified simply by the type of web they construct. Many of us only think of the typical orb spider web that we see so often. However there are also sheet webs, funnel webs, triangle webs, tube webs and tangle webs to name a few. Each of these different designs serves a specific purpose for each species of spider that depends on where they live, how they trap and how they defend. Some are very organized in structure in design, while others resemble tangled tumbleweeds of silk. Most orb webs begin with a single fine thread to drift and catch a ride over to bridge a gap. Once the fine thread is secure, they tighten it and go back over the initial silk thread with a stronger thread to begin the orb construction. Once the main header lines are in place, the circular pattern begins construction, followed by support webs to keep the pattern uniform. The spider constantly checks and measures based on their body length where to connect the next circular pattern to the inner web. While this construction is happening, the spider also continuously checks the tension of each web, eating off what is considered loose, tightening it and reattaching. Then it is time to run the sticky silk lines.  The sticky silk is used to trap and is carefully placed in the same circular pattern, in between the initial design. This gives the spider a non sticky route to travel around the sticky trap, to quickly travel to prey and wrap it in silk for a tasty meal. It is a very tedious and time consuming process, but beautiful and effective when complete.

Although there are many different designs of webs per spider species, most all spiders use the same type of silk to wrapping their prey once it is caught. They also use this same type of fine silk to wrap their eggs to keep them safe. So not only is this one of nature’s miracle compounds and designs, it also has very different uses and applications within the insect world and beyond.

As with all spiders, when you see webs make sure to call Certified Pest Control of Nashville, Tennessee. We are happy to inspect, identify and implement a control method to keep your home safe from Spiders. We offer Nashville Pest Control services at affordable rates with friendly local family service.

Comment