How Spider Web Is Made?

Curious Kids: What are spider webs made from and how strong are they?

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Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland

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Andrew Walker does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children. The Conversation is asking kids to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome – serious, weird or wacky!

My name is Leo. I am 5 years old and I live in Sydney. My question is: what are spider webs made from and how strong are they? – Leo, 5, Sydney.

Spider webs are made from silk. And silk is made from something scientists call “proteins”.

Proteins are special chemicals made by a living thing — like an animal or a plant. You have lots of them in your body. Proteins usually have a certain job to do.

Some join together to make something bigger. Your hair and your nails are made of proteins (they are both made by a protein called “keratin”).

Insects and spiders make silk in a special part of their body called a gland, and use their legs to pull it out of their bodies. This is called spinning.

Most species of spider have more than one kind of silk gland. Each one has different strength and stretchiness and is used for a specific purpose such as web frame, sticky strands, or covering eggs. The strength and stretchiness of silk depends on the way the spider’s body arranges the silk proteins.

Spiders have evolved to spin very strong silk webs so they can catch insects to eat. This means that long ago, spiders that made stronger webs caught more insects to eat and had more babies, but spiders that made weaker webs caught fewer insects and had fewer babies.

After millions of years of this process, some spiders today make silk that is very strong. We don’t usually notice just how strong they can be because they are amazingly thin. But the strongest silk, such as silk from a golden orb spider, is actually stronger than steel. Even more amazing, it is about 50 times as light.

Actually, spider silk is a bit like a cross between steel and rubber. Even with the help of complicated machines and chemicals, humans still don’t know how to make a material this strong, stretchy, and light. Spiders are still the champions at this.

Amazing facts about silk

Most people know that spiders and silkworms make silk, but did you know there are more than 20 different groups of animals that make silk?

Silk-making animals include crickets, silverfish, glow-worms, ants, bees, wasps, flies, caterpillars, lacewings, and sawfly larvae.

Some of these make silk to protect themselves. Crickets, for example, use silk to sew leaves together to build a nest. Others use silk in mating, such as dance-flies, in which the male impresses the female with a gift of food wrapped in silk. Some use silk for hunting, such as spiders and even glow-worms, which use sticky silk to capture flying animals they’d like to eat.

Scientists are closer than ever to producing artificial silk. For example, Dr Tara Sutherland at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences can make bee silk proteins using bacteria, and then spin them into solid strings similar to those made by bees.

Maybe one day, if you become a scientist, you might be able to make something as strong, as light and as special as spiders’ silk.

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See also:  What Does A Spider Sack Look Like?

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What are spider webs made of? And how do they spin them?

Find out how web-spinning spiders do what they do and learn about the impressive, multipurpose material they use to catch their dinner.

Spiders make their webs from silk, a natural fibre made of protein.

Not only does spider silk combine the useful properties of high tensile strength and extensibility, it can be beautiful in its own right.

Jan says, ‘Silk is an amazing material. Golden silk orb-weavers, which are found in warm regions around the world — but not the UK, unfortunately — spin webs with a lovely golden sheen. Their silk has even been used to create a shimmering golden cape that was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2012.’В

UK spiders tend to produce silk that is white or has a bluish hue.

There are seven different silk glands, which produce silk with different characteristics and uses.В For example cribellate silk is very woolly.

Jan Beccaloni, the Museum’s arachnid curator, adds, ‘Cribellate silk acts like Velcro, sticking to the legs and bristles of captured insects.’

Each type of silk gland is associated with a particular spinneret. No species has all seven, but orb-web weavers have five.

Golden silk orb-weavers (Nephila species) spin silk with a brilliant yellow colour

В© Claire E Carter/Shutterstock.com

A golden cape woven from spider silk, which was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2012

How do spiders make their webs?

A spider spinning silk to make its web, pulling the thread out with its hind leg

В© Ian Fletcher/Shutterstock.com

Spiders have structures called spinnerets on their abdomen, usually on the underside to the rear. These are the silk-spinning organs. Different species have different numbers of spinnerets, but most have a cluster.

At the end of each spinneret is a collection of spigots, nozzle-like structures. A single silk thread comes out of each.

Jan explains, ‘Although it looks a bit like an icing nozzle, the silk is pulled out by gravity or the spider’s hind leg. The silk is liquid when it’s inside the spider.’

Before it is extruded out of the spinneret, cribellate silk first passes through a sieve-like structure called the cribellum. Spiders that make this type of silk also have a row of specialised leg bristles called the calamistrum, which combs the silk out and gives it the different, woolly texture.

Spiders then follow various patterns of activity to construct their webs, depending on what species it is. It’s fascinating to watch.

Do all spiders make webs?

Although webs are the most well-known use for spider silk, not all spiders make webs to catch their prey. In fact, less than half of the 37 spider families in Britain do.

Other spiders, such as crab spiders in the family Thomisidae, are ‘sit and wait’ predators — for example Misumena vatia lurks on flower heads, waiting to ambushing visiting insects. Others, such as jumping spiders in the family Saltidae, actively follow their prey and catch it by leaping on it.

A crab spider,В Misumena vatia,В ambushing prey from its flower vantage point

Courtesy of Pixabay (CC0)

A jumping spider,В Salticus scenicus, attacking a fly

Some spiders even invade other webs to find their food. The pirate spiders, of which there are four UK species in the genusВ Ero, go onto another spider’s web and mimic the behaviour of its prey to lure the spider closer. When the web’s owner investigates, the pirate spider attacks.

Silk: a multipurpose material

A jumping spider peers out of its silk cell hiding place

В© Judy Gallagher (CC BY 2.0), via Flickr

However, even spiders that don’t make webs have uses for silk, including creating moulting platforms, sperm webs for males, and retreats.

Jan adds, ‘Jumping spiders, for example, make little silken cells in which to hide in during the day — a bit like a sleeping bag.’

Most spiders use silk to wrap their eggs.

Another common use for silk is as a drag line. Every so often a spider attaches a thread of silk to something, like an anchor, so that if it falls, it won’t fall too far and can drag itself back up to the previous position.

Ballooning is another spectacular use for silk, allowing the mass dispersal of spiderlings and small adults.

After climbing to a relatively high point, the spider points its abdomen skywards and pulls out one to several threads. When air or electrostatic currents carry the threads upwards, the spider follows. They can be carried many thousands of metres.

A field coated in silk after a mass dispersal of spiders by ballooning

В© Stephen Michael Barnett (CC BY 2.0), via Flickr

Money spider mass dispersals in particular make quite a sight. Sometimes the numbers involved can leave an entire field coated in gossamer threads.

Jan says, ‘Not all spiders disperse this way, but it’s the reason spiders are some of the first creatures to colonise new islands.’

More spider web facts

Now that you know how spiders make their webs, discover their impressive variety. British spider webs can be grouped into seven broad types based on their architecture: orb, sheet, tangle, funnel, lace, radial and purse. But even within each group, different species put their own spin on the style.

See also:  What Do Sydney Funnel Web Spiders Eat?

The diving bell spider (Argyroneta aquatica) probably has the most unusual use for its web, which enables it to spend most of its life underwater — a unique ability among spiders.В It constructs a net of silk between submerged vegetation and uses it to gather a bubble of air — its very own diving bell.

View the common styles of web and the spiders that make them >

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Spider webs: not just for Halloween

Explore seven common styles of spider web and discover the arachnids that make them.

Finding love on the web

Spiders may seem scary, but most of them are just looking for love. Read some dating profiles of spiders searching for the perfect mate.

A year of British garden wildlife

Join the team from BBC TV programme The British Garden: Life and Death on Your Lawn to uncover some of the hidden wildlife you could spot throughout the year.

How dangerous are false widow spiders?

Every autumn there are reports of false widow spiders becoming uninvited eight-legged houseguests across the UK.

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Why Do Spiders Spin Webs?

Have You Ever Wondered.

  • Why do spiders spin webs?
  • What are spider webs made of?
  • How do spiders learn how to spin webs?

If you’ve ever seen a new home being built, you know that the workers use wooden boards to frame the house. Instead of boards, spiders produce silk threads to build their webs.

The silk is produced in silk glands with the help of the spider’s spinnerets. Spinnerets are special organs that allow the spider to decide what type of thread it needs for the web.

The silk threads can be thick or thin, dry or sticky, beaded or smooth. The threads a spider uses to construct its web begin as liquid, but they dry quickly in the air.

Spider webs are quite elaborate . How do spiders learn to make such complex geometrical patterns? Making webs is instinctive for spiders, which means nobody has to teach them how to do it. They are born knowing how.

When a spider begins a web, it releases a silk thread . It anchors the thread to some object — a branch, a corner of a room, a doorframe — wherever it builds its web.

As the spider moves back and forth, it adds more threads, strengthening the web and creating a pattern. Lines that go from the center of the web outward are called » radial lines.» They support the web. Threads that go around and around the web are called » orb lines.»

So why do spiders spin webs? When you need food, you go to the grocery store. When a spider is hungry, it heads to the web.

The main reason spiders spin webs is to catch their dinner. When an insect, such as a fly, flies into a spider’s web, it gets stuck on the sticky threads.

When a spider catches prey in the sticky strands of its web, it approaches the trapped insect and uses its fangs to inject venom . The venom either kills or paralyzes the prey , allowing the spider to enjoy its dinner in peace.

Not all spiders use webs for food, however. Some don’t build webs at all. Other spiders chase their prey . Some even make sticky nets, which they throw over their prey when it gets close enough.

Wonder Words (20)

  • masterpiece
  • designer
  • intricate
  • weaver
  • silk
  • thread
  • gland
  • spinneret
  • organ
  • beaded
  • elaborate
  • geometrical
  • instinctive
  • anchor
  • radial
  • orb
  • prey
  • fang
  • venom
  • paralyze

Take the Wonder Word Challenge

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Try It Out

Making a web is hard work! Now you can give it a try, too.

Check out this tutorial on how to make your own spider web with paper. Then try making your own spider, too!

Did you get it?

Wonder Words

  • masterpiece
  • designer
  • intricate
  • weaver
  • silk
  • thread
  • gland
  • spinneret
  • organ
  • beaded
  • elaborate
  • geometrical
  • instinctive
  • anchor
  • radial
  • orb
  • prey
  • fang
  • venom
  • paralyze

Take the Wonder Word Challenge

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fgtjf

Tramaine No

Coolest

We agree about the spiders, Tramaine!

Wonder Friend

We think it’s fascinating, too, Wonder Friend! What is your favorite part?

Thanks for sharing, 3kj.

Thanks for sharing, papi!

28Logan. Stranger Things Fan

You’re welcome, 28Logan!

Also, Stranger Things ROCKS!

See also:  What Does A Spider Mean?

kevin

Thanks for sharing, kevin.

im a big fan

I like spider because I love to eat them

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vahsgdhsnsjf

Thanks for sharing, vahsgdhsnsjf!

braeden

jacob.z

Thanks for the reminder, jacob.z!

You’re welcome, P. Thanks for commenting!

Diego

Thanks for sharing, Diego!

Matthew

Wonder Friend

SPIDERS DO NOT BE LIKE AHHH BOI

jacob.z

no he meant spiders be like AAAHHH A SPIDER

Hi, Matthew! Spiders can be like , but they are also very helpful creatures! Have you ever WONDERed . How Did Spiders Help the Allies Win World War II?

jacob

Thanks! Do you like spiders, jacob?

loyalty

That’s awesome, loyalty! Have you seen Wonder 2026: How Did Spiders Help the Allies Win World War II? Let us know what you think!

Jadyn Brooks ( star wars fan.

Jadyn Brooks

matthew

they eat flies, insects, and some bigger ones even eat birds and frogs!

Thanks for sharing your suggestions, Jadyn! This Wonder of the Day is intended to spark your interest and inspire you to keep researching and learning about spiders. We hope you’ll discover some new things on your own Wonder Journey! Wonderopolis.org does not have accounts that you register for, so there aren’t avatars. However, Camp Wonderopolis does feature registration and you can choose an avatar at that site. We hope you’ll join us there! 🙂

Jadyn

Where can I find that? Also thanks for taking the slight insult easily!

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Alice, Kaiawa, Ellie and T’ley.

Wonderopolis

Thanks for WONDERing with us, Alice, Kaiawa, Ellie and T’leya! You’ve asked a great question! Can you think of some reasons why a spider might want to take down his web and rebuild? 🙂

Morgan Pitt

Wonderopolis

That’s right, Morgan! They’re both classified in the order of Araneae. Thanks for sharing this extra piece of information with all of us! 🙂

Mrs. Nuse’s 1st grade class

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We’re so glad you shared your research about spiders with us, Mrs. Nuse’s 1st grade class! Now we’re WONDERing what these flower-like spiders look like! They sound pretty neat! We think the students of Mrs. Nuse’s class ROCK! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis! 🙂

elijah

Wonderopolis

It sounds like you have a very comical spider, Elijah! We Wonder what kind of spider he or she is? 🙂

Jadyn ( star wars fan! )

why is that one logo different than all the others?

We’re impressed you noticed, Jadyn! Before 2014, we used a different logo for our responses. We updated it in 2014, when we updated our website design! 🙂

Jadyn Brooks (star wars fan! )

put somestar wars in there then it would be funny! LOL! i luv star wars soooooooo much!

We encourage you to add your questions to our Wonder Bank, Jadyn! Practically all of our Wonders come from submissions by our Wonder Community! 🙂

sierra

Mary Anne

Wonderopolis

WOW, how cool that you’re able to experience that spider’s home every evening! It’s truly a work of art!! We Wonder if you have explored the life of different spider species. Some are known to weave their webs in the evening, but to protect themselves from predators, they take down their web after they’ve caught their prey. Everything is usually gone before dawn! Take a look at this video, which captures a spider deconstructing its own web: http://youtu.be/PkILnPfs6Ck Thank you for WONDERing with us! 🙂

Mrs. Nuse’s K Library Class

maliyah scott

not only are they called spider webs there called cob webs and when u get bit by a spider at first it satrts to itch then form redness , and if its a really bad poisnis spider that bit u it will start to spread if that happends go to er no matter if it spreads or not hall butt to the ER or soem kind of emergney

Wonderopolis

Thanks for sharing additional information with everyone, Maliyah! We’re so glad you’re WONDERing with us today! 🙂

Wonderopolis

WOW! Thanks for adding some AWESOME facts to this Wonder of the Day® about spider webs, Mrs. Nuse’s K Library Class! We LOVE it when our Wonder Friends share what they know with us! We like learning new things, too! 🙂

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