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Insects and other arthropods

Spiderwebs

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Araneidae web, Québec, Canada.
Photo: Insectarium de Montréal (Gilles Murray)

A spider’s web is an efficient passive trap used to catch insects. The insects unwittingly blunder into the trap and remain stuck in the silk threads until the spider comes to paralyze and eat them. Most webs are spun by species in the Araneidae family.

Not all of the threads in a web are sticky. The threads that form its rays are not. Only the silk that forms the spiral is sticky. The vibrations created by the insect as it tries to escape from the web alert the spider to its presence. The spider has special anti-adhesive hairs on its legs and travels only along the non-sticky threads so that it doesn’t get caught in its own trap.

Some spiders produce silk threads that are made of the most resistant material known on the planet. These threads are stronger than steel of the same thickness! Their elasticity is also remarkable – they can be stretched to two times their length without breaking.

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