Spider Webs Have Great Diversity

Spider Webs Have Great Diversity

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.

Why Do We Need Insects?

Why Do We Need Insects when they are so annoying?

Many years ago, while working in a teen camp in Alaska, I heard a skeptical teenager disparage God’s existence by saying that if God existed, He certainly wouldn’t have made mosquitoes. I have heard similar comments about ticks, hornets, lice, locusts, spiders, and stink bugs. I suspect we have all had times when we were unhappy with annoying bugs, yet when you examine the role of insects, you realize they are critical to our own existence. The well-known entomologist E. O. Wilson said, “If human beings disappeared tomorrow, the world would go on with little change, but if invertebrates were to disappear, I doubt the human species could last more than a few months.” Why do we need insects?

Insects pollinate plants, aerate and fertilize the soil, decompose dung, and the bodies of things that have died. They control pests contributing 70 billion dollars every year to our national economy. Ninety-six percent of land-dwelling birds feed their young on insects, consuming approximately 400 to 500 million tons of insects. Most creatures in and around lakes and streams feed on insects, including fish and bears.

Why do we need insects? Humans are already seeing the cost of eradicating them. There are 68 species of bumblebees and roughly a fourth of those are in danger of becoming extinct. In Europe, the data shows a 76% drop in insects, including bees, beetles, lacewings, and katydids. The loss of pollinating insects has sharply affected the growing of many cash crops, and scientists are studying the effects of insecticide use.

Before we castigate God for what He has created, we need to be sure we have all the facts. We should learn what each creature does and how it contributes to our own well being. I dislike mosquitoes as much as the next person, but a majority of mosquitoes are pollinating insects. I am reactive to a bee sting, but bees contribute to much of what I eat. From our earliest existence, God has challenged us to take care of what He created. (See Genesis 2:15.) That includes caring for and protecting the agents that allow Earth to be hospitable to our existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data and quote from National Wildlife magazine, June-July 2020, pages 26-31.

How Many Bugs Are in Your Home?

How Many Bugs Are in Your Home?
Would you like to guess how many bugs are in your home? In the fall of 2017 researchers from the California Academy of Sciences published a survey of the bugs in 50 homes in and around Raleigh, North Carolina. The researchers took 10,000 samples from basements, bedrooms, kitchens, and attics. They identified 579 species from the 304 families of arthropods known to science. Arthropods include insects, mites and, spiders.

The researchers found ants, carpet beetles, gall midges, and cobweb spiders in 100% of the homes. In many of the houses, they found booklice, dark-winged fungus gnats, cellar spiders, scuttle flies, and dust mites. Misha Leong who was the lead author of the study says that most homes contain hundreds if not thousands of individual arthropods.

It is interesting that as people move toward buying organic and buying in bulk, they are increasing the bugs in their homes. Indian meal moths, for example, can contaminate oatmeal or chew through a sweater. They lay eggs in our food and closets, and the larvae chew through packaging leaving a mess of silk and frass (waste) behind. If we use the food quickly enough we eat the eggs, and since they don’t hurt us, we don’t even know they are there.

The reality is that we have and will always have lots of bugs in our homes. Many of them are beneficial to us. Booklice, for example, eat fungi and mold. Spiders eat insects and other harmful agents including flies and mosquitoes. Harmful spiders like the black widow and brown recluse are rare. Studies have also shown that many of our chronic diseases are related to our failure to be exposed to biological diversity. Leong says, “Rooms with more kinds of arthropods may be healthier rooms.”

God did not place us in a sterile world. The more we learn of what we live with each day, the more we realize the complexity of life. Living with bugs is essential to our long-term survival. How many bugs are in your home?
–John N. Clayton © 2018