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It takes about one hour for a spider to construct an elaborate web of silk thread, called an orb web. An orb web consists of a series of roughly circular, concentric outlines, with spokes extending from a hub. Orb webs, which are most noticeable in the morning dew, are constructed by many species of spiders.
Orb webs, like all spider webs, are used by spiders to capture insects for food. The orb web is the most efficient type of spider web, since it covers the greatest area with the least amount of silk. A spider usually spins a new orb web every day to maintain the stickiness (and insect-trapping capability) of the threads. Throughout the day, the spider makes frequent repairs to damaged threads.
Many species of spiders construct other types of webs. For instance, large bird-eating spiders construct simple trip wires. Other spiders trap insects in funnel-shaped webs. And some species of tropical spiders that live together in groups work together to spin and repair communal webs.
The largest webs are spun by the tropical orb weavers of the genus (a category of classification made up of species sharing similar characteristics) Nephila. Those webs measure up to 18 feet 9 inches (6 meters) in circumference. The smallest webs are constructed by the species Glyphesis cottonae and cover only about 0.75 square inches (4.84 square centimeters).
Sources: "Arachnids: Trapping Prey." Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 97; The Guinness Book of Records 1994, p. 43; Illustrated Encyclopedia of Wildlife, vol. 9, pp. 2264-65; Preston-Mafham, Rod. The Book of Spiders and Scorpions, pp. 94-95; Scientific American, vol. 202 (April 1960), p. 116.
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