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Why Do Spiders Have Eight Legs?

Sean McCann

Why don't spiders stick to their own webs?  How do spiders walk up walls and on ceilings without falling? Why do spiders have eight legs and eight eyes? How do they make webs? And silk? What's a cobweb? How do spiders eat? And why are daddy long legs called daddy long legs when they have to have a female to produce their babies?! We're talking spiders today with arachnologist Catherine Scott. And we have a coloring page to go with today's episode.

Download our learning guides: Transcript| Coloring Page

"How do spiders not get stuck in their own spider web?" - Nora, 5, Fort Worth, TX and Max, 7, Mesa, AZ

There are lots of different types of spider webs and not all of them are sticky. But Catherine Scott says when people think of sticky webs, they're probably picturing the orb type webs common in gardens. Those are used by spider to catch flying insects.

"The spiders that build those webs have to move around on their webs, right?" Scott says. "So while they're walking around on their webs they can just avoid the sticky lines because not every single strand of the silk in that web is sticky."

Imagine having to walk around your house being really careful about where you put your feet or you might get stuck!

But there's more to it than just being careful.

"They do have to touch the silk with their legs when they're building the web," Scott reminds us. "And they manage not to get stuck to it. So the way that they avoid getting stuck to their own silk is that their feet, which scientists call tarsi, are covered with tiny hairs that decrease the amount of surface area that makes contact with the silk. They also have a kind of non-stick chemical coating on their feet that helps the bit that does touch the silk not get stuck to it. And they're also just really careful about where they put their feet!"

You can find out more about spiders on Catherine's web-site

About the coloring page artist: Hilary Glass is an illustrator, printmaker and tattoo artist living in Vermont. Her content often explores flora and fauna from her local woodlands as well as imaginary creatures from other worlds entirely.  She uses pen and ink, colored pencils, watercolor and gauche as her primary illustration tools and loves to depict most things with great detail and attention to posture and body language.  You can find more info on Instagram @hilaryannloveart and at the website


Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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