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June 28, 2013

Spider webs are part of nature's fine-art collection

(Continued)

I counted several of the spokes to see if there was a definite pattern. The first one had nine arms stretching out from the middle. That web was smaller than others. Another had 12, and the largest web that I counted had 15 spokes.

By the time I came back off the hill, the sun had dried the dew and the webs nearly disappeared into the landscape. But they were still there to serve their purpose.

Spider webs are actually made from a fine silk substance that is produced by spinneret glands located on the tip of the spider’s abdomen. These glands secrete three types of silk. A thicker, trailing safety line is spun to secure the web in place. This material is stronger than an equal weight of steel. There’s a sticky silk used to trap a spider's prey and a fine silk that the spider uses to wrap up its victims.

It’s amazing to see how fast a web can be created. I was hiking a trail up north and stopped for lunch in a small clearing. Three hikers came along within a few minutes and continued on past me. About a half-hour later, I followed them down the trail.

As I walked through the same tall bushes, I ran into a couple strands of webbing that already crossed the trail. If I was that spider I’d move because before long, someone else would come down that same trail and take out all its hard work.

And how can a spider spin a line from the top of the canopy on my deck to the back of a chair nearly three feet away? I thought beavers were great engineers, but spiders will give them a run for their money.

Spiders sure are amazing creatures. They are nature's artists.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.

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