Golden silk from golden orb spiders
October 5, 2009 8:57 PM Subscribe
Producing the spider silk—the only example of its kind displayed anywhere in the world—involved the efforts of 70 people who collected spiders daily from webs on telephone wires, using long poles.
posted by Quietgal (88 comments total)
52 users marked this as a favorite
A unique piece of golden yellow silk brocade cloth, woven from spiderwebs, is on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York. To harvest enough silk to make the cloth, more than a million female golden orb spiders
were collected in Madagascar, "milked" for silk, and released back into the wild. The golden spider silk was woven by Malagasy artisans into lamba Akotifahana
, a type of brocade that is traditionally reserved for the aristocracy; the entire process took 4 years.
How do you milk a spider? You tug on the dangling end of the silk filament, then put the spider in a harness that winds the rest of the filament onto a spool
. Needless to say, Nephila madagascariensis
are very large spiders, females reaching 4 to 5 inches
Spider silk has high tensile strength
, making it a potentially useful industrial material, but spiders are difficult to keep, being inclined to eat each other in captivity. The gene for spider silk was cloned into transgenic goats by Nexia Biotechnologies in Montreal (previously 1
). However, Nexia has moved away from traditional yarns and fibers and they are developing nanometer diameter BioSteel fiber for medical and microelectronic applications
Spider silk - it's not just for World of Warcraft any more!