Spider Web Reflections
During the process of making an orb web, the spider will use its own body for measurements.
Many webs span gaps between objects which the spider could not cross by crawling. This is done by letting out a first fine adhesive thread to drift on the faintest breeze across a gap. When it sticks to a suitable surface at the far end, the spider will carefully walk along it and strengthen it with a second thread. This process is repeated until the thread is strong enough to support the rest of the web.
After strengthening the first thread, the spider will continue to make a Y-shaped netting. The first three radials of the web are now constructed. More radials are added, making sure that the distance between each radial is small enough to cross. This means that the number of radials in a web directly depends on the size of the spider plus the size of the web.
After the radials are complete, the spider will fortify the center of the web with about five circular threads. Then a spiral of non-sticky, widely spaced threads is made for the spider to easily move around its own web during construction, working from the inside out. Then, beginning from the outside in, the spider will methodically replace this spiral with another, more closely spaced one of adhesive threads. It will utilize the initial radiating lines as well as the non-sticky spirals as guide lines. The spaces between each spiral will be directly proportional to the distance from the tip of its back legs to its spinners. This is one way the spider will use its own body as a measuring/spacing device. While the sticky spirals are formed, the non-adhesive spirals are removed as there is no need for them anymore.
Australian garden orb weaver spider, after having captured prey
After the spider has completed its web, it will chew off the initial three center spiral threads then sit and wait. If the web is broken without any structural damage during the construction, the spider does not make any initial attempts to rectify the problem.
The spider, after spinning its web, will then wait on or near the web for a prey animal to become trapped. The spider senses the impact and struggle of a prey animal by vibrations transmitted through the web. A spider positioned in the middle of the web makes for a highly visible prey for birds and other predators, even without web decorations. Many day-hunting orb-web spinners reduce this risk by hiding at the edge of the web with one foot on a signal line from the hub or by appearing to be inedible or unappetizing.
Spiders do not usually adhere to their own webs, because they are able to spin both sticky and non-sticky types of silk, and are careful to travel across only non-sticky portions of the web. However, they are not immune to their own glue. Some of the strands of the web are sticky, and others are not. For example, if a spider has chosen to wait along the outer edges of its web, it may spin a non-sticky prey or signal line to the web hub to monitor web movement.
A soldier ant finds itself entangled in the web of a garden spider
Some species of spiders do not use webs for capturing prey directly, instead pouncing from concealment (e.g. trapdoor spiders) or running them down in open chase (e.g. wolf spiders). The net-casting spider balances the two methods of running and web spinning in its feeding habits. This spider weaves a small net which it attaches to its front legs. It then lurks in wait for potential prey and, when such prey arrives, lunges forward to wrap its victim in the net, bite and paralyze it. Hence, this spider expends less energy catching prey than a primitive hunter such as the Wolf spider. It also avoids the energy loss of weaving a large orb web.
Some spiders manage to use the signaling-snare technique of a web without spinning a web at all. Several types of water-dwelling spiders will rest their feet on the water's surface in much the same manner as an orb-web user. When an insect falls onto the water and is ensnared by surface tension, the spider can detect the vibrations and run out to capture the prey.
In traditional European medicine, cobwebs are used on wounds and cuts and seem to help healing and reduce bleeding.
Cobweb paintings, which began during the 16th century in a remote valley of the Austrian Tyrolean Alps, were created on fabrics consisting of layered and wound cobwebs, stretched over cardboard to make a mat, and strengthened by brushing with milk diluted in water. A small brush was then used to apply watercolor to the cobwebs, or custom tools to create engravings. Fewer than a hundred cobweb paintings survive today, most of which are held in private collections.
It is common for webs to be about 20 times the size of the spider building it. Spider webs are rich in vitamin K, which can be effective in clotting blood. Webs were used several hundred years ago as gauze pads to stop an injured person's bleeding.
Recently, researchers have used spider web fibers (silk threads) to induce minute disturbances into propagating N-slit interferometric signals, used in optical communications. These optical disturbances are detected in the form of diffraction patterns.
February 28th, 2012
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