A little creature wanders by, is watched by gleaming eyes,
It stumbles on a sticky strand that brings its quick demise.
A flash of black, then ugly fangs are pointed at the prey
A spider full of cunning stealth, his meal he won’t delay.
And yet I wonder what would be if you and I would try
To see those creepy spiders through a different set of eyes.
If we looked for beauty and intelligent design,
Then maybe all those spiders we’d no longer undermine.
I hope to demonstrate that, despite the fact spiders aren’t attractive, they really are extraordinary creatures that give glory to their creator, God. I invite you to join me as we look at several ways spiders attack and defend, and as we discover there is so much more to spiders than what most people think.
I would like to start with one of the most important devices in the spider’s remarkable defense and attack system: spider silk. You may have had the experience of touching a spider and watching it descend rapidly on a line of spider silk…Spider silk is a tough protein fiber manufactured by spiders through glands that produce silk proteins made up of amino acids linked together. These proteins are dissolved in a water-based solution and then solidify into a thin filament as they are expelled through tubes in the spider’s abdomen called spinnerets. You might wonder how on earth these thin little threads of silk could be used for the purposes of defending and attacking.
Well, each spider web shows a unique and creative design, made as a shelter for most spiders and used as a trap to catch little creatures like bugs and insects. And it’s made of pretty strong stuff. Kraig’s Biocraft Laboratory created a chart comparing the toughness of spider silk with that of steel and Kevlar, measured in how much “energy it takes to break a continuous filament” of a material. The chart shows that spider silk is approximately 35 times tougher than steel, and 3 ½ times tougher than Kevlar. In fact, scientists at the laboratory are now experimenting with using spider silk instead of Kevlar to make bullet proof vests. But as the German proverb goes, cunning surpasses strength. Spiders use two different kinds of silk to build their nests: sticky and non-sticky silk. Because the spider engineers that web, it knows exactly where to step to avoid getting stuck in its own silk, while the unfortunate victim has no knowledge of this trap and will almost certainly stick fast.
I used to think that all spiders used their silk to build webs. You can imagine my surprise when I heard that the Bolas Spider doesn’t, but instead uses its silk as a sort of hand held weapon. It gets its name from the way it uses its silk: like a bolas, which is the South American equivalent of a lasso, made up of a few long cords with rocks attached on the ends. Dr. Gordon Wilson posted an article on the Answers in Genesis Website, explaining that sticky glue globs dangle off the ends of the silk lines of the bola, enabling it to latch onto any victims it comes into contact with. He describes how this creative creature emits the scent of a female moth advertising for a mate, which attracts the spider’s favorite meal, a male moth. When the spider sees its confused prey, it starts to swing the bola round and round, getting faster, until it lets fly with unbelievable accuracy. Who could’ve ever thought that the minute threads of a spider’s silk—of all things—could come into play as one of the most effective ways to catch prey?
And yet without one specific device, most spiders would be helpless—venom. The majority of spider families are able to inject venom into their prey, killing or crippling their victims, sometimes even paralyzing their quarry. A spider’s venom fangs are curved with a tiny hole on the tip and a long hollow tube leading up to the poison gland. When the spider stabs its prey, it will quickly squeeze the poison out of the gland, through the duct and out the hole, injecting powerful venom into its not so fortunate victim.
Though silk and venom are such marvelous devices, I believe the most interesting method spiders use is camouflage! Just recently I got into my car and right there on the ceiling was a spider, pretending to be some type of decaying matter. It was a bit creepy, but it really brought to my attention how incredibly intelligent these spiders actually are. One very remarkable spider—the Paraplectana Tsushimensis, commonly called the ladybug spider, looks almost identical to a ladybug, while its good friend, the Castianeira Longipalpis—otherwise known as the ant spider—pretends to look like an ant.
These two spiders show exceptional design in the camouflage of their bodies; but have you ever heard of a spider that disguises its home?
With its amazing design and ability to burrow, the trapdoor spider has always fascinated me. This kind makes its home by digging and burrowing underground for about one foot, making a small tube-like structure, which it calls home, with a trapdoor at the top. Its trapdoor is camouflaged by the plant and soil materials around it, letting the spider watch its prey unseen, with its door barely cracked open, waiting until an insect or small creature wanders by its lair; then, with surprising speed and agility, it pounces on its victim, poisoning it for a later feast.
There’s still one more spider that amazes people around the world. Believe it or not, if you look carefully, you’ll see a spider on this flower! This female Whitebanded Crab Spider is able to change colors from yellow to white or vice versa in order to blend in with the object it’s resting on—like a chameleon. Scientists are excited at this astounding display of wonder—passive camouflage is not very difficult to find in nature, but active camouflage is exceptional.
When we look at the way spiders are designed we are forced to wonder, “Where did these ingenious spiders come from and how do they know to do what they do?” We can find the answer in the Bible. In Genesis chapter 1 verse 25 it says, “God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” From the ugly bolas spider, to the most beautiful ladybug spider, all of them clearly display the remarkable handiwork of God. When we look at spiders, we must see that he created them, as Dr. Benjamin Warfield illustrated it, “A glass window stands before us. We raise our eyes and see the glass, note its quality, and observe its defects…or we look straight through it on the great prospect of land and sea and sky beyond. So there are two ways of looking at the world. The window was placed there not to be looked at but to be looked through; and the world has failed of its purpose unless it too is looked through and the eye rests not on it but on its God.”
Incredible as spiders are, despite their creep and crawl,
We must see that God, Creator, stands behind it all.
He designed the spider’s silk that fortifies its lair;
And he designed the venom fangs that it might have its share.
He crafted and designed them that they might not just survive,
He fashioned and created them that they in fact might thrive.
when you come across a spider next, don’t look for frightening things;
I challenge you instead to see what each encounters brings.
Observe a spider’s movements and open your eyes wider
To see the magnificent design of our God who made the spider.
I wrote this last year for the speech and debate season. It might seem a bit awkward because I usually present it with props and such, but I learned a lot writing it, so I hope you do as well. Just a quick note: I don't like spiders! I merely intend to show how they give proof of a designer. However, they are interesting to observe OUTSIDE of the house.