Observing Spider Webs


Did yoy know that you can tell the species of spider from the pattern of the web?

The garden orb weaver on the right spins a classic orb web, but there are many variations. Samuel Zschokke has a great selection of spider web images at spider web construction gallery. I put together a slideshow for the kids from that web site and few others. I also put copies of webs on the walls from How to Know the Spiders by Barbara Kaston, et al., which has fantastic spider web illustrations. The book is not exactly second grade material (most of the spiders are not drawn with legs!), but the webs are illustrated so clearly that my son was able to identify a Zygiella web in our living room.

The Zygiella is so distinctive with clear gaps in its orb-weaver spiral that when I showed them the slideshow of webs, they nicknamed it the “pacman” web. They were all very excited when one boy found this web in the schoolyard and easily recognized it. It was science in action! The assignment was to search out the schoolyard for webs and draw one (or more) in their notebooks. One remarked that he had never seen a living spider in its web.

The spider project with the class was a great success. They really liked going outside and looking at the schoolyard in a new way. It was fun for them to learn something about identifying spider webs and to apply it immediately.

Another fun activity that we did at home with a friend was catching a web. On our outing, it was way more fun for the grown-ups. It may be better for older kids. (The web site recommends 8 and up.) Our 7-year-olds lacked the attention span, but they liked looking at the captured webs afterwards.