Why do spiders eat their own webs?

BBC Wildlife contributor Helen Smith answers your wild question.

A
a
-
Spider webs come in many different forms

Spider webs come in many different forms © Natalia Garmasheva

 

Only 17 of Britain’s 37 families of spiders use webs to capture their prey.  These webs come in many different forms – from the much-admired orb webs of garden spiders and their relatives, to the much less welcome tangle webs of daddy-long-legs spiders. 

Some types of webs are enduring structures – the often extensive funnel webs of large house spiders, for example, can last for years and accommodate a succession of different occupants.

By contrast orb webs, produced by just four families of British spiders, are more fragile. Wind and rain damage their structure, while the gluey coating on the spiral thread that ensnares flying insects is rendered ineffective by pollen and dust. As a result the webs are often rebuilt every night – an operation requiring the manufacture of some 20 metres of silk.

To recycle the amino acids that make up the silk proteins, some orb-web-spinners ingest the silk as they systematically dismantle their damaged webs. Other species simply discard the old silk but one American species uses it to wrap its egg sac. 

 

Click here to read more of our Wildlife Q&As.

Do you have a wildlife question you’d like answered? Email your question to wildquestions@immediate.co.uk or post it to Q&A, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Immediate Media Company, 2nd Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here