Monday, December 8, 2014

Well Said: Through a Spider's Eyes

For years we were taught that a spider spins a new web every day and that certain threads are covered with a sticky substance to catch its lunch. The spider only puts the substance on certain strands so it can move easily and quickly across the web and not get stuck.

That was our vision of the spider and the web until a few years ago when Catherine Craig, an evolutionary ecologist at Yale, wondered if we had been operating under the wrong point of view. We looked at the web as people, but we never looked at the web as if we were insects—the spider’s prey. Insects have a different system of vision than us, and different from spiders. Insects see a different spectrum of light. Scientists decided for the first time to study the web using the insect’s ocular system.
What they found was amazing.

Insects could not see the web at all. The strands vanished, except for the parts of the web that were coated with the sticky stuff. They caught and reflected the sunlight. The scientists were taken aback when they saw that the spiders were not leaving some strands uncoated so they could navigate their webs.
They left them uncoated because they were painting—with sunlight!

The strands that had sticky stuff, when hit by the sun, when viewed through the ocular system and light spectrum visible to an insect, took on the outline of flower petals with the body of the spider in the center of the web becoming the pistil of the flower. It was not science. It was art. And perhaps something more.

A spider has different eyes than an insect. It sees a different world. It is painting something it doesn’t know, that it can’t see, and can only comprehend for itself as a potential dinner. It recreates this painting over and over again. If the spider succeeds and creates the illusion of a flower, she’ll catch a moth and will live. If not—she dies. So the finer artist survives.
What a continual mystery and wonderment creation is. It is discoveries like this that stretch my mind, delight my soul, and make me connect with God in a whole new way.


  1. Makes you wonder about how angels and demons see the world versus how we see it. Demons will "paint" traps as temptations like the spider and their sticky stuff. We see it as a good, just like the insect sees a flower, but it is an illusion. We see a good, but a disordered good (as in out of order, a lower good placed in front of a higher good). And there in lies the trap.