The Loh Down On Science

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When it comes to decorating, black widows can be, oh... a bit moody.

When it comes to decorating, black widows can be--oh--a bit moody.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science

and on spider home design.

Black widow spiders are master web builders. Sometimes they weave a cozy fortress-- sometimes a DEATH TRAP!

But how do they decide?

To find out, Todd Blackledge and Jacquelyn Zevenbergen of the University of Akron divided female black widows into two groups. One group got a fat, juicy cricket every day for six days. The others? NOTHING.

Both groups built webs--but so different! The full, happy spiders spun thick, sheet-like strands into a tangled mess of silk. Made a great hideout.

But hungry spiders? Their webs were taut, sticky strands, reaching to the ground. Perfect for snagging prey, then springing it up into the air for an easy grab.

The researchers then switched the groups, feeding the starved and starving the fed. Result? The spiders altered their arachno-tecture, building the other design.

It shows that a satisfied spider uses resources mainly for protection. But her starving sister risks everything for a passing meal.

Giving new poignance to the term "fly girl." Ouch.


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