Week of September 17, 2023 – September 23, 2023
by Sunny Guyette, Environmental Educator
Every year my family makes a trip up to Maine to visit my grandparents. My grandparents house sits beside a small lake called Estes Lake. Stretching out from the shore is a half metal half plastic dock that has four evenly spaced out pillars on both sides of the dock. Orb weavers construct their webs in between the pillars hoping to catch the insects that use the lake to lay eggs or to get food. As kids, my cousins and I would destroy the webs whenever we wanted to jump off of the dock. To our astonishment the orb weavers would rebuild their webs, sometimes even bigger than before, within just a few hours or so. Those spiders have always amazed us!
This past summer, my cousins and I decided to walk down to the dock to star gaze but came across the orb weavers waiting patiently in the middle of their webs for food to come along. We sat there shining our flashlights on the web, waiting with the orb weaver. As we were waiting, we noticed that the spider was sitting in the middle of the web. We discussed that she designed her web like a wheel; 10-15 spokes stretching out from where she waits so that when an insect flies into her web she can feel it. Then, all of a sudden an insect lands in the web, the web vibrates and the orb weaver races up to her prey, wraps it in her silk and devours the insect!
Webs are spun from spider silk. Orb weavers produce four different types of silk that help make the web stronger, stickier, and more flexible than any other web. Orb weaver webs are the most commonly drawn or depicted when thinking of spider webs. But there are many other styles of webs, each carefully crafted to fit the spider’s style of hunting. For example, a Trapdoor Spider will use its silk to spin a trap door web and a common house spider will use its silk to build what we know as a cobweb. Although all spiders produce silk, most of them do not use it to build webs which makes webs even more spectacular!
Where do you find spider webs? Recently, during a staff hike, we spotted glistening orb weaver webs spun in between the vegetation and exposed by the rain along the Backyard Wildlife Trail. It was fascinating to see that these webs were able to withstand the rain that we had gotten that morning! Next time you come across a spider web, try to identify what kind of spider it might be based on the web. If a spider is in the web, sit and observe how that spider uses its web to catch prey, it is an amazing sight!
Want to learn more about spiders and their webs? Check out this article from National Geographic.