What else do spiders use silk for?

Answer

Not all spiders spin webs, but all spiders produce silk. Those that actively hunt “on foot” often lay down a dragline of silk, anchoring it periodically so that they have a safety line if they lose their grip on a vertical surface, or fail to reach their destination when jumping. Many of these same hunting spiders also spin “retreats,” which look like little sleeping bags where the spider hides during the day, or takes refuge when molting (shedding its “skin” to grow). Spiders that live in burrows usually line their tunnels with silk, sometimes extending that lining above ground as a “turret,” or even a thick trapdoor. Mature male spiders spin “sperm webs” where they deposit sperm from their abdomen before loading it into their pedipalps. Female spiders usually weave an egg sac to protect and insulate their eggs. Since many spiders overwinter in the egg stage, the egg sac must be durable and frost-proof. The spiderlings that hatch from the egg sacs often use silk to help them disperse. They climb a tall object, stand on their tip-toes, and issue silk threads from their abdomen. A good gust of wind then catches the silk and the spiderling “balloons” to a new location, sometimes miles away.

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