I’m sure with it being the end of summer we’ve all walked through our share of these sticky entrapments spiders set up. Though these webs are commonly used for catching prey year round, some web making spiders use their spider webs in various mating techniques. As this time of year is mating season for many types of spiders, you may notice even more spider webs hanging around waiting to smack you in the face, leaving you feeling something like this:
But is that all spider webs are for people? Sticky messes to walk into while you’re trying to enjoy an afternoon in your backyard?
Turns out that isn’t the case. People have previously looked into incorporating spider silk into things such as bulletproof vests due to its extremely lightweight composition and relative strength (a whopping 5 times stronger than steel at the same weight!). There have been complications in its practical application due to how stretchy spider silk is, but it looks like they’ve found another usage for the sticky silk.
The BBC article “Spider silk helps creates microscope superlens” highlights how certain parts of the banana spider’s silk could be used to create the first naturally occurring superlens. By using the dragline of the spider’s web, it is possible to observe things previously considered invisible, such as some germs and viruses.
While this is of course a breakthrough for the world of science in terms of what is observable and the availability of superlenses (which before had to be artificially constructed), I find it particularly exciting that something this powerful is made naturally by an organism. I mean, look at this little guy!
Who’d guess they produce some of the strongest stuff around?
So next time you see a spider web, look through it and see if you get super vision! It might not work, but why not try??
- Banana Spider: http://previews.123rf.com/images/macmedic892/macmedic8920909/macmedic892090900003/5472829-Female-golden-banana-spider-hanging-above-the-swamps-of-Louisiana-Stock-Photo.jpg
- Guy in Spider web: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/97/87/0a/97870a21a646f2e94e6a73ae507ea531.jpg
- Spider Web: http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2012-06-13-Fig1.jpeg
- “Spider silk helps creates microscope superlens”. Published August 22, 2016. BBC News. Accessed September 22, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-37154394
- Harris, Tom. “How Spiders Work”. How Stuff Works. Accessed September 22, 2016. http://animals.howstuffworks.com/arachnids/spider8.htm
- Macdougall, Jane. “Oh, the webs we weave: Navigating a spider’s silk and all its human applications”. Published September 1, 2016. National Post. Accessed September 22, 2016. http://news.nationalpost.com/life/oh-the-webs-we-weave-navigating-a-spiders-silk-and-all-its-human-applications