Spider as artisan

by mila4gatech

So the other day I was sitting in a hammock, watching a spider weave a web above me.  As I had nothing better to do, I watched the spider for quite a while and I realized that I had never really watched a spider weave a web before.  I’m sure I’d SEEN a spider do it, but I never really WATCHED.

That day I actually learned how the spider makes those incredibly regular radial structural strands. (I’ll tell you in a minute).  I later learned (on accident) that orb weavers have different types of silk.  Among them, are super strong and non-sticky structural silks — these make up the radial strands and provide support to the web, and the sticky non-structural silks — these make up the ‘spiral’ strands and are what the flies stick to.

So how does an orb-weaver make the original web structure before they start the spiral?  Well, first they throw a few random strands out to stick to things nearby, like branches or eaves.  once they have an outline of the main strands, they tighten them, like a ship’s captain tightens sail cordage.  They somehow identify a “center”.  Then, starting from this center, they walk out along the first radial strand, spinning a silk, but holding it out from the web, so it won’t stick to the strand they’re walking on.  When they get to the outer structural strand, they move over a few millimeters and attach the silk, then they crawl back down that silk to the center and repeat on the new silk.  They keep doing that until they are back at the original radial strand.  It’s incredibly impressive to watch.  Those little things are pretty resourceful.

So what does this have to do with creativity?  Well, as I was watching that, appreciating how perfect and delicate and beautiful it was, it made me wonder if each spider has their own special touch, if each web is unique or has a ‘style’ like snowflakes. Are spiders artisans?  Are we?


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