Saturday, 20 February 2010

Spiders gather water with their webs

A new study looks at how spiders use their webs to collect moisture from the air. Image courtesy of PD

Joel Kontinen

A bright autumn morning will make spiders’ webs glisten in the sunlight. This has to do with water droplets that cling to them. In other words, spiders do not have to trudge down to a stream to drink some water but they get it from the moisture in the air.

Recently, a team of Chinese researchers published a paper in the journal Nature on how spiders use their webs to collect moisture. Zheng Yongmei and colleagues examined the webs of Uloborus walckenaerius spiders with an electron microscope and reported on their observations.

The researchers noticed that the structure of the web makes water droplets cling to the silk. They hope to copy the technology spiders already make use of and have constructed a man-made web for collecting moisture from the air.

Time and again scientists notice signs of truly amazing design in nature (You can read more here and here ). Three millennia ago, King Solomon wrote: ”He [i.e. God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The water-collecting function of a spider’s web also suggests that in the very good world of Genesis 1 and 2 before the Fall, they could have been used for solely non-predatory purposes.


Helmer, Magdalena. 2010. Dew catchers. Nature 463: 7281, 681.

Zheng, Yongmei & al. 2010. Directional water collection on wetted spider silk. Nature 463: 7281, 640-643.