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Along Came a Spider Web

Sep 21, 2015

A spider builds its web by releasing six thin filaments from the rear of its body. The fine threads unite to form a strong, sticky, elastic line that can be used to trap a meal, build a home, hold eggs or get from place to place.

Most of the spider webs you see are designed to catch prey. Orb webs are flat with support lines that radiate out from the center. Flying insects become ensnared in these webs and are quickly wrapped up by the spider in a cocoon of silk. The meal is eaten immediately or stored for later.

Spiders use their silken strings to help them get from place to place. Many spiders lay down a drag-line as they move about. The drag-line works like a mountain climber’s rope, supporting the spider when it falls or jumps from a high place. Spiders also use their gossamer threads to fly. By spinning out several lines into the wind, young spiders can sail as high as 10,000 feet and travel several hundred miles.

Chances are you’re not far from a spider web. Look for these remarkable fabrications around your garage, deck, fences and yard plants.

Micrathena Spiders: A Tangled Web They Weave

  • There are three species of micrathena spiders in Missouri. All are orb weavers (they spin intricate, circular webs), and all have some combination of pointy, conical tubercles on their bodies.
  • M. gracilis, the spiny-bellied orb weaver or spined micrathena, has 5 pairs of black tubercles and a white and black (or yellowish and brown-black) mottled abdomen.
  • M. mitrata, the white micrathena, has 2 short pairs of tubercles and a white abdomen with a few distinct black blotches on the upper side.
  • M. sagittata, the arrow-shaped micrathena, has striking reddish, black, and yellow colors and has 3 pairs of tubercles. The pair of tubercles at the back end of the abdomen are rather large, forming two corners of the triangular (“arrow-shaped”) body.

Find out more about all spider species by searching the MDC’s Field Guide.

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