Not all spider webs are destroyed with a broom. In fact, spiders can recycle their webs by eating them!
How and why do spiders recycle their webs?
Some spider webs are built to last years while others only last a day or so. Of course, while those beautifully spun webs in the corner of your attic may have been built as a long-term home for the spider, in that case, their duration is influenced by how long humans allow them to stick around.
But for some neglected spider webs, they can be so enduring that a new generation of spiders might come to reside there.
More fragile webs may only last a day because spiders build them simply to catch food. Rain and pollen may affect their stickiness. In these cases, spiders will pack up a web for the day and build again the next. When this happens, spiders often eat their webs to recycle the amino acids that made up the silk protein used in web construction.
It’s an impressive feat since webs can consist of 65 feet of silk!
Not all spiders ingest their silk though. And some use it to wrap their eggs sacs. But considering how much energy it takes to weave a web, it’s not all that surprising that spiders recycle webs by eating them in some cases.
Spider web building
Spider web silk is made out of protein chains. And some of it is as strong as kevlar (though obviously it’s not as tightly woven, so we hardly notice when batting them away). In fact, scientists are studying it in the hopes of making future body armor!
Spiders typically start building webs by pulling silk from a gland in their fourth leg. The fourth leg on the opposite side contains even more silk glands. Then, in order to begin, the spider (depending on the species) can shoot it out to attach to an object or wait for a breeze to carry it to the base from which it will start building.
From there, the spider will typically create a number of attachment lines. Then they decide which are the strongest and begin weaving from there. Different spiders have different web patterns. In fact, they’re so distinct that experts can look at the structure of a web and tell you precisely which type of spider built it.