Spiders: masters of the world wide web
It's a beautiful morning for a walk and with the mist hanging in the air, the spider webs are decorating the landscape. There are many orb webs to be seen like this one we admired and photographed near Barnfield in Kent but did you know that spiders don't just use webs to catch flies?
They also use their silk to communicate with other spiders by leaving trails. Males leave these lines to mark their territory, while females lace their silk with pheromones, letting the males know when they are ready to mate. Believe it or not, the pheromones in the silk can tell a male spider how many exes (previous partners) the female spider has had. On damp sunny days, these threads of communication can easily be seen hanging over grassland.
During mating, some male spiders use silk to deliver their packages of sperm to the female. One particular species of spider even uses silk to seal up the female’s reproductive organ so that no other male spider can mate with her after him.
A female will use silk to protect her young. Once her eggs have been laid, she wraps them in a web case which surrounds them until they hatch.
Spider silk is made of protein. It is produced from the spider’s silk glands, which are connected to pairs of movable spinnerets that release it. Originally, the silk is in a liquid form but when it comes out, it turns into a rigid fibre, not because of exposure to the air but because the molecular structure of the protein is changed.
Protein is a valuable food source for our eight legged friends. Broken webs are too precious to waste - they can be eaten in order to produce more silk so in effect spiders recycle.
Clever little creatures!