The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > September 2009 > Oh, What a Tangled Web . . .
Oh, What a Tangled Web . . .

… spiders don’t weave, thanks to their ability to spin sticky and non-sticky silk as well as their having movable claws on their feet that can grip and release the web’s threads as they walk. In fact, in a spider web only the silk used for the intricate catching spirals is dotted with glue, so spiders know which threads to avoid. These are just a few of the accepted theories as to why arachnids don’t actually become ensnared in their own traps.

Cobweb. Photo by Edith R. Wilson. ca. 1914. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC4-9793 (color film copy transparency); Call No.: PH - Wilson, no. 1 (A size) [P&P] Catalog Record: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3g09793Frogs, snails, and insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, wasps and dragonflies. Between 1800 and 1850. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-jpd-00305 (digital file from original drawing); Call No.: FP 2 - JPD, no. 302 (A size) [P&P] Catalog Record: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/jpd.00305

What makes spiders truly unique in their silk-producing abilities is that they are the only animals that use this silk for multiple purposes. In addition to web-weaving, their multiple silk glands each produce different kinds of silk to aid in mating rituals, create shields for protection from predators and to encase their eggs.

The complete answer to this and many other “Everyday Mysteries” can be found in the Library’s web pages of the same name. These mysteries deal with everyday phenomena often taken for granted, but each can be explained scientifically.

The Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division also offers a variety of resource guides to help further study on such subjects as integrated pest management, migration of the monarch butterfly, and 17-year periodical cicadas.

Also of relevance, for those of you tired of pesky pests in your garden, is a webcast on garden ecology. Entomologist Eric Grissell wants us to all get along, saying that insects play a vital role in garden ecosystems.