Spiders are brilliant creatures. They create engineering marvels, known as spiderwebs. The spiderwebs perform as designed, with the goal being to snare food for the spider, which doesn’t have to chase and catch its future dinner, unlike most other species. So what makes a spiderweb so successful?
Well, for one thing, spiders can produce a silk that is stronger than steel. In fact, it is considered to be five times as strong as steel at an equivalent weight. Spiders use different thread, depending on the purpose of the thread. They create bridges, anchors, spiral thread, and more. In the center of the web, there is “capture thread.” That is the only thread in the entire web that is sticky. Its purpose is to snare any insect that may have accidentally gotten caught up in the web. Oh, and by the way, there are people who mistakenly think that spiders are insects. They aren’t. To be classified as an insect, the animal must have two main qualities: an exoskeleton and six legs at some point in its development. Spiders have exoskeletons but they always have eight legs and, therefore, are arachnids, not insects.
For more information about the construction of spiderwebs, here is a link to a really cool article about the construction of spiderwebs.
Humans are so fascinated by the success of spider webs that they want to reproduce the technology. Engineers have been studying sticky thread because, no matter what lands in it, it is always taut. Engineers have studied the concept of “liquid wire” construction. It extends as if it were solid, and it compresses as if it were liquid. Hence, the sticky web, which can capture some fairly heavy insects, can revert to its original shape once the spider has eaten its prey. Here is a link to an article that gives more information about liquid wire.
The fascination with spiderwebs has led to engineers and designers making the attempt to replicate spiderwebs. One example of that is a bridge in Sheffield, England, called the Cobweb or Spider Bridge. It is a suspension bridge that was actually designed to resemble a spiderweb. And it does. There is even a metal spider attached to this bridge. How cool is that?
Well, anyway, according to the cliche, imitation is the highest form of flattery. And the fact that people are trying to replicate the work of spiders indicates that spiders are really very successful creatures.