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5. Spider Webs

Part of

Some find them terrifying and some find them annoying, especially when you've just dusted and you look up and discover yet another one on the light shade in your room, they are often called cobwebs and they are always used at halloween to make everything spooky and creepy... however, here at the Dundee Science Centre we love spider webs and today we are going to have a closer look at why they are incredible feats of architecture.

Some spiderweb facts,

  • Spiders make their webs from silk, a natural fibre made of protein.
  • Spiders have structures called spinnerets on their abdomen, these are silk-spinning organs.
  • Often spiders use their web for trapping prey.
  • Most spiders use silk to wrap their eggs.
  • British spider webs can be grouped into seven broad types based on their architecture: orb, sheet, tangle, funnel, lace, radial and purse.

Spider webs can look very different between different kinds of spider families and today we are going to take a closer look at the architecture of the Garden Orb Weaving Spider web. You will have seen many of these webs in the past, but just to remind you have a look at the Natural History Museums web site.

Building a spider web is a tricky business, and we'll find out how tricky now when we draw one!

Watch this video clip from BBC Earth on YouTube (below) to see a spider web building time lapse.

Spider Web Builder Time Lapse Video

This short YouTube video (below) shows a very clear view of the process.

Spider Spinning Its Web

The process of building a spider web can be broken down into 7 stages as shown, very simply, in this sequence below.

Formation of a Spider's Web

Now you can answer the worksheet A Closer Look at a Spider Web (PDF).

You can then check your answers, A Closer Look at a Spider Web Worksheet (Answers) (PDF).

And it's time for you to Draw Your Own Spider Web remember to look back at the spider webs you found to see if you can spot all the different threads you've just been finding out about!

Some answers...

  • Spider webs are called cobwebs because the old English word for spider was coppe. Turns out that cobwebs are only produced by Theridiidae (cobweb spiders) and Linyphiidae (money spiders) - all others should be just known as spider webs.
  • Spider webs do not all look the same, there are orb, sheet, tangle, funnel, lace, radial and purse.
  • Hmmm how do spiders know how to build a web? We would love to hear some ideas from you!

We would love to see photos of any spiders and spider webs you have found in your house and garden, as well as any art work you produce during this week - remember to send them in!

Use the Competition of the Week link to upload any work.

Come back tomorrow for a fun, but beastly, game for all the family!

If you have enjoyed these activities please share them with your friends and family.