Category Archives: Insects

Harnessing the Power of Spider Silk

spiderA professor at Arizona State University is studying the silk that spiders spin to build their webs. Scientists have discovered that spiders can spin six different kinds of silk. Each kind of silk has different properties. Some kinds of silk are very stretchy, while other kinds are sticky. The most amazing thing is that spider silk is very strong — as strong as steel, in fact.

So why don’t we farm spiders and use their silk to build useful things? Professor Jeff Yarger has the answer:

The reason is that spiders don’t produce silk in large quantities.

“You can put lots of silkworms in a small area and genetically modify them to go from the larval state to a moth in 20-30 days. Spiders take longer. But let’s get to the crux of it—spiders don’t like each other. They eat each other,” he explains.

The scientists came up with an idea to make spider silk without using actual spiders. They altered silkworms to enable them to make spider silk. But there was another problem — the silk spun by silkworms was not as strong as real spider silk. Their next challenge is to use a powerful scanner called a Magnetic Resonance Image machine to look more closely at the altered silkworms in hopes of perfecting artificial spider silk.

via Researchers aim to harness power of spider silk | ASU News.

Original Research on Bees from Eight-Year-Olds

From Gawker comes a cool story about a group of kids in England who did original research on the behavior of bees. The kids set up an experiment with colored lights to see if bees are able to remember the location of food.

Their research was so good it was published in a scientific journal called Biology Letters. Super cool!