Do spiders ever run out of web or do they make more when they eat?…

I think I’ve seen them re­cy­cling old web for new web but I can’t be sure as I nor­mally squash them on sight. Asked by Matthew

Guru Magazine - - Ask A Guru - An­swer by Ross Harper

Dear­est Matthew, Spiders are awe­some. They spin beau­ti­ful webs, they get rid of pesky flies, and – very oc­ca­sion­ally – they bite nerdy high-school stu­dents, turn­ing them into su­per­heroes. It there­fore sad­dens me that you would “squash them on sight”. Re­gard­less, you do pose an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion: how do spiders make webs, and can this abil­ity run out? A spi­der’s silk doesn’t leave its body fully formed. There’s no lit­tle roll of spi­der thread wait­ing to be unravelled: the silk is ac­tu­ally se­creted as a pro­tein fluid, which hard­ens when it comes into con­tact with the air (a bit like glue does when it comes out of a tube). This fluid is pro­duced by the spin­neret glands lo­cated at the tip of the ab­domen, and the web has dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties de­pend­ing on which gland type it comes from: it can be sticky (to catch prey) or strong (to form ro­bust struc­tures). To make its web, all the spi­der needs is a sup­ply of pro­tein. So, yes, the more they eat, the more web they can pro­duce. It’s a nice cir­cle isn’t it – the spi­der builds a web to catch prey, it eats the prey, and di­gests it into pro­tein, which it then uses to build another web. Sim­plic­ity: thy name is spi­der. So what hap­pens on a slow day when our spi­der isn’t hav­ing any luck catch­ing din­ner? It’s used a lot of pro­tein to build a lovely web, but the flies just aren’t com­ing. It would be a ter­ri­ble waste just to aban­don all that work. Why not eat the web and re-use the pro­tein to spin another one in a bet­ter lo­ca­tion? That’s ex­actly what they do! Spiders munch old web and use the pro­tein to re­fuel their spin­neret glands – it’s re­cy­cling at its best! So there you have it. Spiders are not only awe­some, they’re also eco-friendly. What more could you want in a creepy crawly?

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