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Though all spider webs are intricately designed, few compare to the stunning silky strings assembled so seamlessly by orb weaver spiders. The “orb” in orb weaver spider comes from the shape of the webs they produce, which resemble a bicycle wheel with spokes radiating out from the center with spiraling threads around the web. The spokes act as walkways for the spider to maneuver about the web.

You won’t usually find an orb weaver spider inside your house. They prefer a home’s exterior or surrounding woods. Orb weaver webs are impressive: they can be bigger than two feet in diameter, making walking into one ill advised. That’s a lot of web to wipe off!

Orb weavers don’t always hang out in their webs. During the day, they hide in nearby leaves or find other safe hiding spots. From there, they anchor themselves to their web with a line of silk and wait to feel vibrations that alert them to an intruder in the web. A snared insect will struggle to free itself, becoming more entangled, as the orb weaver climbs back to the web. In a matter of seconds, these spiders can stream down to the tangled insect, grab it, spin it, wrap silk around the prey to immobilize it and then bite it, injecting a poison that liquefies its prey’s insides so the spider can later drink them. Don’t worry, the orb weaver’s bite is not normally medically threatening to humans. When you think of orb weavers, don’t think of the terrifying spiders from Arachnophobia. Instead, think of Charlotte from “Charlotte’s Web” — a “terrific” web architect that eats mosquitoes and flies.

How Do Spiders Build Such Magnificent Webs?

In the 100 million years spiders have been around, they’ve evolved into master web builders. A spider’s spinnerets, located at the end of their abdomen, produces the silk used to spin webs. Each pair of spinnerets can produce different kinds of silk used for different purposes.

A spider starts building its web by attaching the first thread horizontally between two sticks, posts, trees or anything else it can find. The spider then makes a looser thread that hangs down from the first horizontal line. When the spider gets to the center of this looser thread, which will become the center of the web, it drops down and attaches another thread to a fixed spot. This forms a Y-shaped design that anchors the web. The spider continues building more non-sticky radials attached to fixed points for web support. Once the radii are built, the spider spins non-sticky spirals outward from the center, then retraces its steps to add sticky silk. It then eats the extra silk because there’s good protein within the material. Each day it consumes the web and spins a new one.

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In the 100 million years spiders have been around they have perfected web building.

 Watch how a spider actually weaves its web.