Spiders’ cobweb chemical repels invading ants

November 27th, 2011 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Nov 27 (IANS) Golden orb web spiders know how to protect their web silk from invading ants — they just add a chemical to repel the latter. The properties of the chemical could pave the way to new pesticides.

Spider silk is known to be very strong, elastic and adhesive.

The study was led by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Melbourne, the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B reports.

Daiqin Li, associate professor in biological sciences from the National University of Singapore, intrigued why ants avoided orb web spiders, set out to discover the reason with associates from the University of Melbourne.

“We found that large Golden orb web spiders add a defensive alkaloid chemical onto the silk, which stops the ants from walking onto the web when they come into contact with it,” said Li, according to a Melbourne statement.

Mark Elgar, zoology professor at Melbourne, said the team was impressed by the strength of the ant repellent in the web silk.

“The type of chemical deterrent found in the spider silk is known as a pyrrolidine alkaloid, which acts as a predator deterrent in many species of ants, moths and caterpillars,” Elgar said.

The team found that only large Golden orb web spiders produce the defensive compound, suggesting that the younger, smaller spiders could rely on their thinner web silk to physically prevent ants being able to climb into their webs.

The Golden orb web spider is typically found in the forests of Australia, Asia, Africa and America.

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