The ability to spin silk is one of the things that distinguish
spiders (and a few other insects) from the other animals in the animal kingdom.
Spider webs are made up of chains of amino acids, which is dissolved in to a
water based solution before being released into the air and stretched. It is
this string fiber that spiders use to make their webs.
** Fun fact - spider silk is five times stronger than steel of
Although observing a spider web under the microscope is not
complicated, it's important to note that the web is delicate and should be handled
with care for the best possible results.
fluid/ or clear nail polish
Microscopic cover slips
Dry spider web
Find a dry spider
Make a thin layer of nail polish at the center of the slide (about
the size of the cover slip)
Allow the layer to dry for about one minute
Holding the slide firmly, touch the slide on to the central part
(thickest part) of the spider web to obtain some spider web (you can hold the
slide using the index finder and the thumb on either ends of the slide). It is
important to avoid spiders you are not familiar with and avoid harming or
killing the spider
Remove any excess spider web
Cover the slide using a cover slip, pressing it down gently
Place the slide on
the microscope for observation
** If nail polish is not available, then a slide mounting fluid may
be used to attach the spider web on to the slide
Under the microscope, the student will be able to observe many,
shiny (silver like threads) thread-like structures of the web/silk. On the
other hand, an electron microscope will show the silk to be a thicker strand,
some of which may be single, double or multi-stranded held together.
Spider silk serves a number of purposes for different types of
spiders, including among others;
To catch prey,
Although students will be able to see long, smooth strands of the
spider web under the microscope, it may be interesting to note that some
strands of spider are coated with other substances to make the web more sticky
or waterproof, and the fiber material may vary in consistency depending on the
This is an easy and fun experiment that will allow the student to
observe a spider web closely. Silk produced by spiders has captured the
attention of scientists, who are still fascinated by its elasticity and
strength and continue to study it more closely.
This should therefore be an important starting point to
learn more about spider produced silk. However, students should avoid any spiders
they are not familiar with.
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