When people think of spiders, they envision poisonous creatures crawling over them while they sleep. While spiders may frighten you, they are an essential part of the ecosystem and play their role in controlling the pest population.
There are more than 45,000 species of spider, with the Samoan moss spider as the smallest and the Goliath bird eater tarantula as the biggest, and while all produce silk, not all make webs. This silk is used for climbing, tethering, wrapping prey, creating egg sacs and building webs.
Think all spider webs are the same? Think again. Here are the different types of spider webs you may come across.
Type #1: Spiral Orb Web
If you picture a spider web in your mind, this is usually what you will see. These are circular webs that look like wheels with an intricate network of spokes working towards the middle, and they range drastically in size, depending on the spider that builds them. Pest control experts often deal with spiders and their webs.
Spiral orb webs are usually found outside near gardens or in the forest, and they have a main frame with outer borders and inner spikes of sticky elastic threads. Spiders in the Araneidae family build vertical webs in high, flying insect traffic zones and can catch up to 250 of them a day as they wait on the web or hide nearby.
It’s also fascinating to observe the role these spiders play within integrated pest control strategies in gardens or forests.
Type #2: Triangle Web
Triangle webs are built using three strands of silk, anchoring in four points, and they connect with spokes and spirals to resemble a triangle, pizza-sliced shaped web.
This type of web is usually not sticky but has tiny fibres covering it to help a spider entangle and catch its prey. The Uloboridae spiders don’t have venom glands, so they smother the insects they catch.
Type #3: Funnel Web
This web is shaped like a funnel where the silk threads are stretched over varying distances, forming a cylindrical hole in the middle where they meet.
Inside the hole is where the Agelenidae spider hides, offering great protection and concealment to watch for its prey as insects walk across the flattened web and get tangled up. Then the spider will sense the vibration and rush out for a surprise attack. They are usually built between rocks or plants.
Type #4: Cob Webs
Cobwebs are the common type of spider web you find in your home, and they don’t seem to follow any type of design. They tend to be weaved into corners and around the ceiling because of the anchorage points and are quite a sticky mess.
Also called tangled webs, Theridiidae spiders build them, and while they may seem messy and random, that’s how they are designed. Dangling strings have sticky droplets on the ends, and when insects walk across them, they are snared as the strings contract back into the web.
These house spiders are typically harmless but can include the black widow.
Type #5: Sheet Web
A sheet web is just like it sounds; it looks like a sheet hanging between bushes, trees, over rocks or on top of grass. Some even are domed over plants, but all are constructed with thick layers of silk, woven horizontally and can be very dense.
The linyphiid, a family of spiders, build these webs and will hang upside down from them, waiting for their prey to get caught up. While most spider webs are temporary homes for their owners, these webs are more permanent structures.
Type #6: Mesh Webs
Mesh webs are outside cobwebs and tend to get built-in grassy fields under rocks, leaves and other vegetation. They will have snare threads built in but also can entangle prey in the sticky silk, and then the meal is set.
The Dictynidae spider family builds these, and they are a bit more orderly in design than their cousins, the cobweb.
Type #7: Molt Mat
This is the tarantula web, consisting of thick mats of webbing along the ground where the spider will moult onto. It gives them a soft home to live on as they are fragile after they moult, and it makes them very sensitive to vibrations so the spider can detect any predators nearby.
Type #8: Sperm Web
Sperm webs are temporary structures that transfer sperm from a spider’s epiandrous fusilli to its palpal bulbs. The spider will build this small, tubular tent, deposit a drop of sperm underneath it and crawl to the surface to load it into the bulbs where it will lay dormant, protected in a layer of protein until needed to fertilize a female’s eggs.
Type #9: Egg Sac
When it comes time for a spider to lay its eggs, they spin an eggs sac to hold them, and it can range from only two eggs to over 1,000.
Sacs range from discs to round spheres and can be white, brown and even black. The female spider will spin a mat, deposit her eggs and cover them with another mat. Then she will wrap them up into a ball to protect them and allow for easier transport.
These are the types of spiderwebs our eight-legged friends make for their homes. It is fascinating to see the different designs and learn about their function, which makes it easier to appreciate how hard these arachnids work to catch their food and coexist with us.