Fourteen Ways That Spiders Use Their Silk

Shi En Kim Reporter
Spider silk is a marvel material. It is lighter than steel, stronger than Kevlar, and more elastic than rubber. It is also flexible and antimicrobial. Silk has been used by scientists to create bulletproof armor, violin strings and medical bandages. It also makes optical fiber cables, optical fiber cables, and extravagant clothing.

Fritz Vollrath, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Oxford, says, "I don’t think people would believe me if I told them that there’s this creature that, when you scaled it up... to the size of a human, it could catch a plane with the material it makes out of itself."

Spider silk is a mixture of proteins that are linked together to form a chain. It is produced by spinnerets glands at the rear of the spider. All spiders produce silk, although some spiders may produce multiple types. However, spider silk is not as common as the webs used in Halloween decorations.

These are just a few of the many ways that spiders use silk to catch prey beyond what they use in static webs.

As nets and cords to actively snare prey

The most boring spider hunting method is silk as a passive web. Spiders can use silk to catch their next meal.

While most spiders avoid ants, they can be predatory. However, one spider family treats ants like chow. The Oecobius wall spider wraps an ant in silk from a safe distance while running around the victim. Once the ant has been trundled up, it will chomp the ant at its antennae.

Deinopis, an ogre-faced spider, spins a web to serve as a snare but uses it in a unique way. The web is woven between four of its front legs. It then hangs upside down, holding the web open. It uses its web to catch the insect it sees, and then it catches them using their web as a net. The net-casting hunter can capture prey flying in mid-air or below the ground, just like a lacrosse player catches a ball. The victorious spider then bundles its prey up and kills them.

As Parachutes

The Krakatoa volcano, in Indonesia's present-day territory, erupted in 1883 with over 10,000 hydrogen bombs. It wiped out most of the island, and turned it into an uninhabited wasteland. Three months later, scientists visiting the area were shocked to discover that one form of life was still present: microscopic spiders.

Because they survived the blast, these spiders were not on the island. They had actually traveled there by ballooning in the wake of the eruption. Ballooning is a well-known phenomenon. Spiders send their silk through the air and catch the wind like a sail to loft. Many spiders have been discovered in the middle and faraway islands, riding the jet stream or on isolated islands hundreds of kilometers from the mainland. Some spiders are able to travel long distances by ballooning, but not all.

A spider balloon literally tips its abdomen toward the sky when it is lifted. The spider doesn't need to fly in favorable winds (breezes work better than gusts), but it relies on electrostatic attraction to generate most of its lift. Similar to the Earth's surface, spider silk is negatively charged. It's also negatively charged by the 40,000 daily storms. Similar charges repel, so the force pushes silk off the ground to allow the spider to fly. Spiders are able to sense electric fields through the hairs on the ends of their legs. They may lift a limb in order to check the atmosphere before making a great escape.

As Home Decor

Orb-weaving spiders aren't content with using silk to build their homes. These spiders also make an effort decorate their homes. Stabilmenta is thickly banded silk that they weave into their webs. These structures were initially thought to stabilize the web. However, scientists later discovered that they were just loosely knitted into the fabric. The function of stabilimenta remains a mystery today.

There are many theories to explain this phenomenon. Researchers believe that the intricate webs of stabilimenta are intended to be visible because they are only woven by daytime-roaming spiders. Popping patterns could be used to hide the spider's silhouette. Scientists believe they could also increase the size perception of the spider. Some theories suggest that the structures may attract more insects because they reflect more ultraviolet light than leaves and flowers. They could also be used as a stop sign to prevent birds from flying into the web and causing damage. These woven motifs can also attract more spider-eating Spiders because they make a web more visible to visual hunters.

As protection from the elements

Jumping spiders can move freely during the day but will make shelters from the rain or cold at night. These "pup tents", which jump spiders use to store and hibernate their eggs, allow them to shed their outer shells safely. One scientist speculated that the Himalayan jumping Spider (Euophrys Omnisuperstes) is able to spin cocoons that protect it from cold temperatures. This makes it non-migratory and one of the highest-dwelling animals on the planet.

As Buffers Against Tides

To protect itself from daily tides, one spider spins cocoons. Low tides are when the Desis spiders can be seen crawling among coral and abandoned seashells, as well as the bottoms of kelp. The spiders will cling to these places with waterproof silk when the water rises. Researchers discovered that the spider slows down its breathing in order to burn more oxygen. Scientists are still unsure how the web can withstand salt and how it keeps up with the tide.

As Underwater Breathing tanks

Only one arachnid, the diving bell spider (Argyroneta aquata), spends most of its time underwater. It breathes only air, just like all terrestrial spiders. It submerges and gloms a bubble onto the bottom of its posterior to act as a temporary scuba tank. It can also spin a dome-shaped, air-filled diving bell that is covered with silk and placed underwater.

The bubbles that they collect from the surface of the water are used by diving bell spiders to pump their homes. The silken lair allows for the exchange of gas molecules with the surrounding water. Scientists have observed carbon dioxide and oxygen diffusing from the bell to aid in spider breathing. Scientists have even compared the homespun structure to an artery. These spiders will expand their homes in oxygen-poor water to get more air. The gas exchange works well, but eventually the diving bells will shrink. Therefore, the spiders must resurface at least once per day to collect bubbles for reinflation.

Burrows as Door Hinges

"Trapdoor spiders, tarantulas, and others will use silks as reinforcement for the tunnels they build," says Sebastian Echeverri, a researcher and communicator. Sebastian Echeverri is a spider communicator and researcher. His two trapdoor spiders are his favorite of the 19 he has.

This spider builds a solid door from soil, leaves, and silk. Particularly, the hinge of this door is made from silk. These arachnids close the door in the morning, but leave it open at night when they hunt. The entryway is adorned with silk thread trails that act as trip lines. The ambush hunters can sense the vibrations of these threads and will pounce if a victim touches them.

They serve as protection against parasitic wasps, their arch enemy and predatory archnemesis. The trapdoor spiders will use their fangs in the event of an attack to close the door. This is a strangely human-like move. The stinging predators often win by chewing through the flap. A trapdoor spider from southwest Australia was the oldest known to have died in the wild in 2016. It was 43 years old when it was attacked by a parasitic wasp.

As Community Hubs

All spiders are not lone hunters. Out of 45,000 species, researchers have identified 25 social species. Many social spiders live in colonies of up to 50,000 members, although a maximum number of 1,000 is recommended. This army of arachnids is capable of creating impressive silk homes by working together. Anelosimus eximius spider colony from South America can spin silk webs up to 25 feet long, making it one of the most important silken sanctuary in the natural world.

Only the female members--outnumbering the males upwards of five to one--work together to build, repair and clean their home. When the spiders are hunting larger prey than an individual can handle, the large number of the colony and their gargantuan web is a great help. These larger insects like grasshoppers and butterflies are brought down by the spiders working together to overwhelm their victims.

The Anelosimus webs can be disturbed by predatory wasp swarms or ants. In return, the spider troops can mount an attack. Interlopers transmit their vibrations to the webs easily, disabling any surprise attack. The fallen will provide a bounty of food for the victorious spider.

Large silk webs are not good for larger animals, particularly birds who steal the silk to decorate their nests.

As drinking fountains

Spiders can suck on the juices from their prey to quench their thirst, but they also have the option of drinking directly from small drops or puddles of water. They will sometimes drink the water droplets from their webs to save time and avoid a trip down to the water hole.

Spider silk is capable of drawing moisture from the atmosphere. Researchers looked at the silk of cribellate Spiders and discovered that its key water-collecting property was the fiber's shifting structure. The filaments become knotty when humidity is present. They are separated by smooth, untangled strands and look like threaded beads on string. These knotty puffs attract moisture. The water droplets that condense onto silk will slide along the smooth areas towards the puffs, coalescing into larger globules.

This silk's knobby structure is so effective at sucking water from thin air that scientists have been inspired to create similar materials to extract water from fog.

As Food

Spider silk is a valuable commodity because of its high-quality proteins. Making silk requires energy from the spider, so it may eat its own silk to help its body recycle the proteins and make new silk. Many spiders will tear down their webs to make new ones, so it is a good idea to recycle the materials.

The Argyrodes spider or dewdrop spider takes silk eating to a new level by robbing silk from other spiders. This spider is a Kleptoparasite. It steals the insects bounty of other spiders instead of hunting for its own. Sometimes it does more than just steal, and may even move in to prey on its host. Dewdrop spiders will steal from the poor during times of low food supply, even if other spiders are unable to catch a catch. They will eat the webs of the host instead. Their web heist is a temporary food foraging strategy that allows them to survive when food is scarce. The lab has shown that veritable thieves can consume the same amount silk as insects.

As wrapping paper

Nursery web spiders are called what they are because the females are known for creating a prominent egg sac from silk to house their babies. Mothers are extremely protective and will take their egg sacs with them wherever they go. The mother will make a nursery tent and place the eggs in it when the eggs are almost ready to hatch. She then stands outside guard and defends her children from predators until they are old enough to venture out into the wild.

Silk is not just for females. The material is made into wrapping paper by males. A male nursery web spider will gift wrap a food item in silk and give it to a suitor as a token of his sincerity. If he arrives empty handed, the cost can be high. The female will usually eat him. The nuptial gifts, also known as silk-wrappeddowries, are used to prevent female sexual cannibalism and prolong mating time. They keep the ladies busy with unwrapping presents while the males play with the females. Research has shown that a woman is six times more likely than a male to eat her potential mate if she arrives without a souvenir.

Vollrath says that "some males are quite naughty." Vollrath says that sometimes the packages don't even contain a fly in them. Wily males might take shortcuts and wrap fake gifts instead of preparing nutritious ones. While a male may be able to get away with this trickery and make a quick buck, the female often finds out the scam and cuts short their time together. The nursery web male's deception is a balance between cost and benefits. He might save energy by making a useless gift for the female, but he may not get enough time to have children or he might be eaten.

As Bondage During Mating

Many spider species have potential brides that are afraidsome. They will eat any male they see. The male spider might try to stop a female from eating him, binding her with his silk.

Some spiders tie the female to the ground, while others drape a thin veil of silk over their wives. These silk pheromones are used to turn the woman on. Research has shown that the sparse silk soothes the female just like a blanket. Ancylometes Bogotensis spider trusses females by their legs and then tips them on their side to mat with each other. This foreplay is necessary because females are usually larger and more aggressive than their male counterparts. Nephila pilipes' female is ten-times larger than the male and 125-times heavier than the former. After mating, females are able to free themselves from their bindings.

A Chemical-Soaked Road

Wandering wolf spiders are hard-working. They leave a trail behind silk to signal that they are single and open to mingling. The'silk road" contains sex hormones, which are coy come-hither chemical signals that will send men on a wild chase. The silk fibers contain chemicals that allow males of one species of wolf spider, the Schizocosa. To boost their reproductive success, they prefer to chase sexually mature females.

Males who catch a whiff of a female will display a courtship display before they reach her. This extravagant show can be costly for males and could make them more visible to predators. Researchers believe there is still an evolutionary benefit to performing a show with no female audience members. It's a clever shortcut. Males just want to draw attention to other females nearby and maybe send a warning to females not to eat eager courters.

As a communication tool

Spiders are extremely sensitive to vibrations. The tiny vibrations in silk can be sensed by spiders as they detect their prey. Arachnids can also communicate with each other from far away by plucking silk strands and rumbling their stomachs. In courtship, spiders can communicate along silk threads so that a male can try out the waters and avoid being eaten. If the female is open to communication, she may just strum back.

If it isn't obvious, spiders can be clever creatures. One cannibalistic spider learned to imitate the vibrations of an intruder caught in a trap. It flies by the webs of other spiders and strums its song to lure them into a corner before ambushing them. Portia jumping spider is known for its intelligence. It uses trial and error to "compose the right signals" until it successfully piques the prey's curiosity. One persistent Portia was observed to continue its experimentation for three days before being caught by its prey.

Portia spiders can move on any spider up to twice their size. Cannibals must be cautious when handling larger spiders. This brainy spider can experiment with different beats. Perhaps it will choose a monotonous tune that calms larger spiders. The rhythm might also be used to orient prey in a certain direction, so that the Portia can attack them from a safer angle. Portia's impressive array of tactics is the hallmark for the spider-eats-spider world in which arachnids reside.

Echeverri says that spiders have taken every aspect of being a Spider and run with it in totally different directions."