Spider webs can be extremely frustrating and annoying, but if you can get past the unsightly mess they make around your home and property, spider silk is actually extremely interesting. Here are 5 fascinating facts that you may not know about spider silk.
1. Spider silk has many different uses
Spider silk is a protein fiber that all spider’s secrete. It is used for many important purposes. We typically only think of it in terms of webs for catching food, but that is only the beginning. Uses for spider silk include:
- Creating a web for capturing prey
- Immobilizing or wrapping prey
- Creating egg sacs
- “Ballooning”: a way of floating or traveling to a new area
- Creating “trap doors” to hunt
- Drop lines to keep them from falling
- Reproduction and pheromone trails
- Guide lines for finding their way back home
- Lining their nest
- A source of food
2. There are many different types of spider silk
Different species of spiders produce different types of silk. What is even more interesting, however, is the fact that a single spider can produce different silk, depending on what it is needed for (see examples above). It can do this by changing up the composition of its silk. Researchers have discovered that a single spider can produce up to 7 different types of silk.
3. Spider silk is known for its “exceptional mechanical properties”
You may have heard about the incredible strength of spider silk. According to an article on Wikipedia, spider silk is one of the strongest substances on earth. This means that silk can absorb a lot of energy before it will break. When compared weight for weight, spider silk is stronger than steel.
4. Silk is produced in specialized glands
Spiders are unique in the animal world because they have specialized glands that produce and extrude silk. These are called spinnerets. Spinnerets usually come in pairs, and a spider typically has between 2-8 spinnerets.
5. Not all spider silk is sticky
This might seem like a glaring mistake, but the actual spider silk isn’t sticky. Spiders create a strong polymer adhesive that is produced by another gland in the abdomen. They then secrete little droplets of the adhesive along the strand of the web so that it creates a glue to catch prey. When a spider has to move along its sticky web, it will use “claws” at the end of its legs to keep it from getting stuck. A spider may also leave a non-sticky section in the middle of the web so that they can move around freely.
While spider silk may be pretty incredible, it must still be dealt with around our homes. Getting rid of spider webs can be tricky, so the best plan of action is to keep spiders away in the first place. Harris makes a full line of home pest control products to help the DIYer stay on top of spiders, ants, rodents, roaches, and more. If you need help with spiders, give Harris Spider Killer a try. For more information, check out Spiders: The Ultimate Guide.