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Orb Weaving Spiders and Their Webs

Hosted by the Opell Lab, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Science, Virginia Tech

The intricate orb webs that are common during late summer allow these spiders to capture their insect prey.

Opell Lab image of orb weaver and lab members listed

This exhibit explains spider anatomy, how orb weaving spiders build their webs, the features of these webs, decorations that some spiders add to their web, and what makes orb webs sticky so they can hold prey. It also provides a guide to species of orb weaving spiders that are commonly seen in Virginia.

Spider Anatomy

This page explains the parts of a spider's body and their functions.

Web Building and Features

This page explains the parts of a spider orb web and how a spider builds an orb web.

Why Are Orb Webs Sticky?

This page explains what makes the capture threads of orb webs sticky so they can keep insects from escaping until a spider can wrap or bite them and begin feeding.

Web Decorations

This page shows several kinds of decorations that some orb weaving spiders add to their webs and explains the functions of these decorations.

Common Orb Weaving Spiders of Virginia

This guide shows 15 orb weaving spider species that are commonly found in different habitats.

An Orb Weaver Builds Her Web

The Opell Lab in the Virginia Tech Department of Biological Sciences  studies the adhesive prey capture threads of spider orb webs. We are learning how the thread’s hygroscopic glue droplets respond to differences in environmental humidity and how differences adapt species to habitats with different humidity regimes. This requires us to characterize the material properties of the viscoelastic, adhesive glycoprotein core at the center of each droplet and to understand how the adhesive forces of multiple droplets are summed to generate an efficient adhesive delivery system.