The Wild Side

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Published on: Apr. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 21, 2010

called gossamers. The spiderlings climb to the tops of grass, tree branches or other tall objects. Then they release strands of silk into the wind until the gossamers are long enough to catch the wind and pull the spiderlings off into the air.

With this trick, spiderlings can fly without wings and are carried into new areas quickly. This allows them to spread out and avoid competing with brothers and sisters. Ballooning is an ingenious way to increase survival chances and to travel into new areas. If you're not a spiderling, don't try this method of flight at home.

Sensational Spiders

  • Scientists have identified more than 37,000 species of spiders around the world.
  • More than 300 species of spiders live in Missouri.
  • Spider silk is the strongest natural fiber known.
  • The circular threads on a web are sticky; the straight threads are not.
  • Spiders can fly for many miles by "ballooning."
  • All spiders have venom, that's how they catch food. But only two Missouri spiders - the black widow and the brown recluse - are dangerous to people.

Make Your Own FLoating Spiderling

You will need:

one 12- x 12-inch square of cloth (old sheet material works well)

two 24-inch lengths of thin kite string or thread

one large wooden or plastic bead (1/2- to 3/4-inch diameter)

one small wooden or plastic bead (1/4- to 1/2-inch diameter)

four seven-inch lengths of florist wire or other thin wire

*one four-inch length of pipe cleaner wire.

Make the gossamer "parachute" by tying each end of the kite string to one of the corners of the 12 x 12 cloth. Make a small hole in the cloth at each corner, thread the string through and tie it in a knot. The string will form a loose "X" across the cloth when you are finished.

To make the body of the spider, thread the large bead onto the bundle of four florist wires, pushing it to the middle of the wires. Put the small bead on to the wires next by threading each end of the wire through opposite ends of the bead. Pull the wires tightly through so that the two beads are drawn together. When done correctly, these will form the legs when spread apart and formed into place.

To attach the parachute to the body, thread the pipe cleaner through the large bead, then place the two loops of string on to the pipe cleaner loop. Twist the pipe cleaner wires together to close the loop. Toss your spiderling into the air on a windy day and watch it fly.

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