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What are Cobwebs?
Posted by Davbmn on 04/10/06 at 12:12 PM
That nagging question you’ve always wondered about is finally answered!
You’re cleaning your house, you look up, and you spot what appears to be a dusty spiderweb. But is it really a spider web? You don’t see any spiders in the web or nearby, nor does this look like any spiderweb you’ve ever seen. There is no definite pattern to the web’s design and you see no helpless prey stuck in the sticky mess.
What is this “spiderweb” and where did it come from? If this question has been on your mind for one reason or another, or you think you know and just want to check your fact; feel free to read on.
Yes! It is true. A cob is what corn comes on. The word being used here may not be the “cob” we are familiar with at all, but rather the old english word “coppe”. Coppe simply means spider. So one can speculate that cobweb could be a slurring of the old english words “copp web” or “spider web” in our modern english. Which leads us to the next question, where is this spider?
Well you may never actually see the spider that was responsible for these particular strands of silty silk. Cobwebs are generally webs made of irregular strands of spider silk, rather than the intricate arrangements spun by most of the spiders that continually rebuild their webs. These webs are abandoned instead of torn down and eventually gather enough to become visible long after the spider has moved on.
The “cobweb spiders” make up the family Theridiidae. One of the most plentiful types in the U.S. is the common house spider, Achaearanea tepidariorum. The notorious Black Widow spider, Latrodectus mactans, also belongs to this family. Another spider, which may be responsible for webs around the house, is the long-legged cellar spider Pholcus phalangioides of the family Pholcidae; which makes loose, irregular webs in dark places.
It is also plausible that many of the cobwebs you come across in your home may never have been part of an organized web at all. It could be that some silk strands made by spiders for other reasons, like egg sacks and in the case of a jumping spider, movement; may have been blown around by air currents until finally becoming attached to a surface or to another silk strand; again gathering dust until it became visible.
So when you see a dusty old cobweb, know that the spider that built it has probably long since moved on to greener pastures, or darker corners, as the case may be.
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