Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

Spider Silk Threads – an Alternative to Bombyx mori Larvae?

Did you know that you can harvest silk threads from spiders? It appears the silk thread produced by the common garden spider is twice as strong as that of the larvae of the Bombyx mori moth.

But the problem is that the spider is difficult to rear in captivity. The upside is that when they are captured in the wild, it is relatively easy to collect their silk. An article by J.A.Millar in Science News describes how a scientist in Vancouver together with some colleagues, placed a spider on a card and then knocked it off. As it fell spun a thread, the card was twisted and the silk was reeled in. As the dragline got longer and longer, the scientists were able to collect more and more silk. They described the spider as “very cooperative. You can reel in more than half a mile of dragline in ten minutes.”

In fact the silkworm silk is reported to be much more water resistent than the spider dragline. On the other hand the dragline is twice as strong and very elastic. These are two properties which don’t normally go hand in hand because materials that increase in strength tend to break more easily.

But how expensive would it be to make things from spider silk? The story goes that someone in early eighteenth century France made some stockings and gloves from spider silk. When they worked out what would be needed to go into production, they came up with the following figure: 633,522 spiders would be required to produce a pound of spider silk. Happy hunting!

Not the most profitable of businesses. But interesting nevertheless.

N.B. I have just come across something very interesting regarding silk from golden orb spiders in Madagascar. Watch out for a short post on it.


January 22, 2010 - Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , ,

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