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Discovery Magazine 10/1/1994


A Message in Silk

by  Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.

 Everyone knew that Wilbur was "some pig," and that he was "terrific." Charlotte, a common garden spider that lived near Wilbur, made sure of that. Using her keen ability to use silk, she wrote these words in her web for all to see. That's what happened in E.B. White's tale, Charlotte's Web. Unlike Charlotte, real spiders can't write words, but their webs really are terrific.

Web-building spiders are masters at using silk. God made these spiders with the ability to make several different kinds of silk. The female garden spider, for instance, can produce at least seven silks. Also, spider silk is the strongest natural fiber known. By weight, certain kinds of spider silk are five times stronger than steel!
 
Spider webs come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most familiar webs is shaped like an orb or circle. Spiders that make this shape of web are called orb weavers. These spiders first build a frame for the web with firm, dry threads that spread out from the center. The frame looks like spokes on a bicycle wheel. Then the spider weaves a single strand of sticky silk onto this frame in a tight spiral. An average garden spider's web is made up of 3 or 4 different kinds of silk and has about 1,500 connecting points. Amazingly, it takes about only one hour for a spider to weave such an impressive web. That's fast
!
Spiders might not be able to write words like Charlotte did in ÆMDBRØCharlotte's WebÆMDNMØ. But spiders send us a clear message by the amazing design of their webs: "GOD MADE ME!"
 
Different kinds of spiders weave different kinds of webs. Some webs are shaped like triangles and funnels. Others, like cob webs, are a tangled mass of fluffy silk strands.



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