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Spider Webs

October 31, 2007

A listener asks: Can spiders get caught in the webs of other spiders?


A spider’s tangled web. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Christopher Bender of Spartanburg, South Carolina emailed to ask whether spiders can get caught in the webs of other spiders. We turned to Jonathan Coddington, an arachnologist at the Smithsonian Institution.

JONATHAN CODDINGTON (Smithsonian Institution):
The short answer is yes: any spider could get stuck in any other spider’s web or even in its own web. They don’t have any special immunity to sticky silk.

But if a web-spinning spider were to get caught, it might free itself by secreting an enzyme in its saliva that is powerful enough to cut silk. And in its own web, a spider avoids touching its sticky silk and coats the tips of its legs with oil to prevent entanglement. If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-whyisit. If we use your question, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.