Cobweb Criss-Cross

Glenwood, Ravenglass, Cumbria, CA18

Spider silk – whether in the form of a perfect spiral web covered in dewdrops glinting in the sunshine, scrunched up in dirty blobs stuck to your jumper after an accidental collision, or, like here, built up in layers over the unused window of a deserted shed – is a truly amazing material. It’s stronger by weight than steel, it’s tough and elastic, and is spun by spiders.

There are seven kinds of spider silk, manufactured in seven different silk-producing glands, which can be combined together to form silk with the specific properties required for one of a number of particular functions.

What spiders use silk for:

Webs: for catching prey, using sticky, elastic silk.

Draglines: for connecting the spider to the web, for the non-sticky spokes of the web, and as a safety line for accidentally falling spiders. The strongest type of silk.

Shelters: for burrows or nests.

Egg-sacs: for keeping baby spiders safe.

Swathing: for the wrapping and immobilisation of prey.

Mating: for weaving a sperm web on which to deposit sperm, to transfer it to a female.

Alarm lines: for alerting non-web building spiders, when ants trip over the line.

Parachuting and Ballooning: for aiding the dispersal of young. Silk is released and caught by the wind, resulting in flying spiders.

Pheromonal trails: a trail of silk impregnated with pheromones, for attracting a mate.

Guide lines: for wandering spiders to find their way home again.

And now, click here for some extra wow!

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