5. Handheld mini-webs
The “ogre faced” or “net casting” spiders of order Deinopidae hang upside down from just a few strands of silk, holding an unusuall small, dense web between their front legs they use to physically reach out and scoop up passing insects. The silk of this special net isn’t sticky, but so fuzzy that it instantly entangles the hairs and joints of insects like velcro, allowing the spider to trap fairly large and powerful insects with only a small amount of silk.
4. False advertising
Many garden spiders construct webs with a distinct pattern of thick silk at the center, the purpose of which was long debated. We now know that this special silk is reflective to UV light, creating patterns similar to those used by flowers to attract their insect pollinators.
3. Fatal attraction
The bizarre “bolas spiders” or Mastophorea use their silk in a manner unlike any other arachnid group, secreting a dense, round glob of glue on the end of a single long “fishing line”…complete with lure. Each species of bolas spider emits a pheromone attractive to the males of a different moth species, who come looking for a lady-moth only to get whacked in the face by the spider’s goo-ball.
2. Scuba tanks
Argyroneta aquatica is one of the only true spiders that can be found completely underwater, earning it the name “diving bell spider.” Its hairy abdomen can trap a thin layer of air around its breathing pores, which it carries back and forth between the surface and its underwater web. The web is structured to trap a large pocket of air – just like a man-made diving bell – where the female raises her young and consumes her prey.
1. Web Shooters
Nearly all spiders produce silk from organs called spinnerets on the tip of the abdomen, and need to be able to touch something to wrap it up in webbing. Not so for the genus Scytodes, the “spitting” spiders, who have additional silk glands connected to their mouthparts. Slowly creeping up on unsuspecting insects, the spitting spider squirts twin streams of silk that are even laced with its own venom, waving its streams back and forth to lasso prey in a criss-crossed toxic net.