Monday, August 16, 2010

Spider gets Good Housekeeping award!

While I was taking pix of this golden orb-weaver spider (Nephila clavipes) at Fairchild Garden yesterday, a man gently threw a few tiny bits of trash (leaves, twigs) into her web, where they stuck. Immediately, she examined the nearest one and dropped it from the web, doing the same with the other pieces. She was not having any trash clutter up her nice, tidy web.

Years ago, I heard that the silk of this Nephila had been used as cross hairs for WW2 rifles, so for one of my son's dreaded middle school science projects, I helped him (hey, isn't that what all parents do?) design a plan to test the relative strength of spider webs. We  carefully gathered the dragline silk -- the silk that forms the web's structure -- of different species, including the golden orb-weaver. The silks were taped to a bar and lead fishing weights were attached until the silk snapped. I don't remember all the details, but the Nephila was vastly stronger than anything else, and I have a vague memory that we were able to attach 26 weights before it finally snapped.

It was a cool project. Feel free to use it!


Floridagirl said...

What a cool science project that must have been! Great idea! I have seen the Golden Silk Spider clean out her web that way here in my garden. She is a beauty and a very interesting creature!

Susan said...

I have a new appreciation for spiders now. She's obviously not putting up with such nonsense.

Melanie said...

Beautiful spider. I used to have them(or a similar species) here in my garden in Houston, but they all mysteriously disappeared. They've never been back.
I know first hand how strong the web is; as a 10-year old I walked right into one and I pulled and pulled to get them off. Fortunately, the orb that owned the web had crawled up onto a branch. Nice post.
David/ Tropical Texana :-)

Terra Mirabilis said...

@FG: We had the most "fun" collecting the silks; that was a whole other project!

@Susan: I appreciate them, too, but I do not want one crawling on me...

@David: I've only ever found one in my garden and it too disappeared. There was a large hole in her web and I think something (bat? bird?) got her.

Incidentally, based on this post, my nephew in the UK isn't sure he wants to visit us.

Annick S. said...

when we lived in South California(28years+ ago) I had instructed Nick to watch for black windows before putting his little hands in holes. The silk of the web seemed particularly resistant, easy to identify.