Why webs don't stick to spiders

Spiders' feet are oily.

Mattmeister: I spent part of my weekend kicking back and staring at a spider spinning a gigantic web. Pretty entertaining. Later I tried to knock the web down and it stuck to my hand. If webs will stick to me and to flies and other bugs, why doesn’t it stick to spiders? And then I started wondering how they get Teflon to stick to pans if nothing sticks to Teflon. — Sticky Guy, El Cajon

It takes a special kind of person to watch all that spider labor and then knock the web down. I’m sure that scenario is in the FBI’s serial killer personality profile. Aliceland continues to be a fascinating place.

Spiders spin many different kinds of silk, but none is sticky unless the spider also exudes a gluey substance to cover it. In the typical orb web, only the circular threads are sticky. And spiders don’t stick to them because their feet are oily. A spider-design necessity. And obviously if Teflon stuck to nothing, it would be pretty useless as a coating material. Teflon is a plastic whose main advantage is that it’s very slippery. It’s made of long chains of carbon atoms surrounded by wads of big, tightly bound fluorine atoms. Not much is chemically compatible with the fluorine, so it can’t adhere. To get Teflon to stick to the pan, you roughen the pan’s surface, suspend powdered Teflon in water, spray it on, then bake the heck out of it till everything’s fused.

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