Published on January 7th, 20140
Extraordinary Discovery: Do Spiders Use Electric Nets to Catch Prey?
The garden cross spider, Araneus diadematus, constructs a net which, apart from its stunning architecture, has a remarkable feature: the structure of water and silk blends to become an electrical conductor, and this greatly increases its efficiency.
The web threads are made of silk laced with special silk “droplets” swollen with water and a special chemical cocktail that functions as a highly adhesive and water-attractant glue—a sticky trap that also works as a water magnet, but that has the ability to draw moisture around.
This combination of elements electrically charges the net, thus helping the spiders catch their prey more efficiently, say the authors of a study published in Naturwissenschaften.
The study is the first to describe this electrical weapon used by spiders, showing in detail how this mechanism works.
The electrically charged net, say the authors, causes slight distortions in Earth’s electric field within of a few millimeters of the net. This allows the web to literally spring toward prey as well as small charged particles like pollen and pollutants.
The authors believe that this newly discovered property could be the basis of new methods to monitor pollution because it is as effective as industrial sensors at detecting and capturing airborne pollutants, such as pesticides.