Humidity affects the extensibility of an orb-weaving spider's viscous thread droplets
The prey-capture threads found in most spider orb webs rely on viscous droplets for their stickiness. Each droplet is formed of a central mass of viscoelastic glycoprotein glue surrounded by an aqueous covering, both of which incorporate hydrophilic components. We found that the extensibility of droplets on Larinioides cornutus threads increased as humidity increased. However, the deflection of the droplets' supporting axial lines did not change, indicating that atmospheric water uptake increases glycoprotein plasticity, but not glycoprotein adhesion. The extensibility of droplets, along with that of the thread's supporting axial fibers, is responsible for summing the adhesion of multiple thread droplets. Therefore, daily changes in humidity have the potential to significantly alter the performance of viscous threads and orb webs.