Silk Spider, an Extraordinary Weaver

   The huge silk spider below, seven inches across, which sucks the life from its insect victims, is in turn eaten with gusto by the Lao people of northern Thailand —either raw or lightly toasted and dipped in salt. To get the insects it requires for food, this Nephila spider has developed weaving to an extraordinary art. Small birds occasionally get entangled in its huge web, which is sometimes eight feet wide and is made from golden silk stronger and more beautiful than that of the silkworm. Because of its excellent qualities, various attempts have been made over the years to harvest Nephila silk commercially, but the prob-lems involved are formidable. A spider web cannot be unraveled the way a silkworm cocoon can. The only way to obtain a usable thread is to draw the silk from the live animal—a process which involves strapping down a large number of the spiders and slowly drawing silk filaments out of each, at the same time twisting them together to form a thread of suitable thickness that is then wound on a reel.

Golden Silk Spider