Not all spiderwebs are the same. The web shape and use are different from one spider species to another. However, scientists have identified more than 49,000 species, so spider webs have great diversity.
Araneidae spiders make a round web with a hub in the center and radii projecting outward with rings of sticky spirals surrounding it. Most people have seen those webs in their gardens or other outdoor locations. Spiders in the family Agelenidae build horizontal sheet webs that insects fall onto. The web is not sticky, but when an insect lands on the platform, the spider quickly rushes over and injects venom into the victim.
The Deinopis spiders are net-casters. They make a small square web and hide above it until an insect walks below. The spider drops the net on the unsuspecting prey and then wraps it in silk. One New Guinea spider species makes a long ladder web to capture moths. The moth’s protective coating falls off when sliding down the ladder, and then it gets stuck. In Australia, a species of orb-weaving spiders produce giant net-like webs up to three feet in diameter.
We can see that spiders have enormous diversity in their webs. Spider silk is very acidic, so fungi and bacteria can’t exist on it. Because of that, humans have used spider webs as a treatment for wounds. Medical research has also found uses for spider venom. Researchers estimate that spiders catch up to 800 million tons of insects every year worldwide. Without spiders, we might be overrun by insects.
We tend to have a negative view of spiders, but they are one of God’s great tools to protect us and help make the world a better place. Spiders are not aggressive toward humans, but they can inflict a painful and sometimes dangerous bite when we invade their spaces. Like many other things, we must learn how to manage spiders and their varied webs designed to remove the plague of insects from our lives.
Reference: The International Society of Arachnology in the Old Farmer’s Almanac 2023, pages 186-7.