Ask Kidspace: Spiders
Hi there! My name is Rachel Masters. I am the Nature Programs Specialist at Kidspace. I have a couple Ask Kidspace questions here. Sidney and Izabella, ages 10 and 8, both want to know how spiders make webs.
Spiders are amazing creatures and how they make and use their silk is super fascinating. The materials they use to make their webbing starts as a liquid inside their body, this liquid is made in organs called glands. We have glands too, one you might be familiar with is our saliva glands that produce liquid (saliva) that helps us break down food when we chew it. Spiders have around seven silk glands in their abdomen that produce silk. These glands are connected to another organ called a spinneret, located on the abdomen of the spider. Spiders can use gravity and/or their legs to pull the liquid silk out of their spinnerets, which hardens as soon as it is exposed to the air The silk glands and spinnerets are a little like a soda machine. Each gland is a different kind of soda (or silk) and the spider can choose what type it will use for different purposes. I found this diagram pretty helpful for seeing the different glands and what the silk is used for:
Not only do spiders have different kinds of silk, different spiders spin different types of webs. We often think of the classic orb web, but there are also sheet webs, funnel webs, cob webs, and wooly webs. Webs can have multiple types of silk to form it. You can tell what kinds of spider it is by the type of web is spins and the placement. How cool is that!
Here are some of the spider webs I found in my garden.
Some spiders don’t use their silk to spin webs at all! They also use silk for protecting their egg sacs, wrapping up their food, ballooning or kiting (using silk to travel), lining their burrows or homes, and many other uses! If you would like to explore further, here are some of the resources I used to research your question.
Keep asking questions and being curious!