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  • Strategy

Spider silk warns birds: orb-web spider


Argiope sp. / Ken Slade / LicenseCC-by-nc - Attribution Non-commercial

Strands in orb-weaver spider webs warn birds, attract insects using UV-reflecting silk.

"We are becoming increasingly aware of animal communication outside the range of human sensitivity. Web decorations are silk structures used by orb-web spiders to deceive prey and predators. However, despite the level of interest in these structures, their visibility to prey and predators has never, to our knowledge, been objectively assessed. Here, we use spectrophotometric analyses to show that the decorations of all five tested spider species are visible to honey bees and birds over short and long distances." (Bruce et al. 2005:299)

"Web decorations reflect light in the UV range and may exploit an inherent sensory bias of insects toward UV light, thereby increasing the foraging success of the spider. Decorations may also deter visually hunting predators such as birds and wasps by hiding the spider or by advertising the web’s noxious characteristics. Finally, decorations may advertise the position of the web to larger animals such as birds, which then avoid contacting and accidentally damaging the web.” (Herberstein and Fleitsch 2003:623)

"The conspicuous white silken adornments known as stabilimenta, which are commonly found in the orb web of some spiders, appear to be protective devices that warn birds of the presence of webs in their flight path. Webs endowed with artificial equivalents of stabilimenta tended to survive intact the early morning period when birds are on the wing; unmarked webs showed a high incidence of destruction." (Eisner and Nowicki 1983:185)
About the inspiring organism
Med_3455938310_35e27c9c95_z Argiope keyserlingi
Argiope keyserlingi Karsch, 1878
Common name: St Andrew's Cross spider

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: SpidCat: The World Spider Catalog
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_NE IUCN Red List Status: Not Evaluated

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Building glass that prevents bird collisions. Designing safety net system for construction sites that are more visible. Designing wire fencing to reduce accidental collision. Designing fish nets visible to non-target species.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction

Behavioural Ecology
Marie (Mariella) Herberstein
Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior
Thomas Eisner
Cornell University
Bruce MJ; Heiling AM; Herberstein ME. 2005. Spider signals: are web decorations visible to birds and bees?. Biology Letters. 1(3): 299-302.
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Herberstein ME; Fleisch AF. 2003. Effect of abiotic factors on the foraging strategy of the orb-web spider Argiope keyserlingi (Araneae: Araneidae). Austral Ecology. 28(6): 622-628.
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Eisner T; Nowicki S. 1983. Spider web protection through visual advertisement: role of the stabilimentum. Science. 219(4): 185-187.
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