Spiders’ webs are used by the Allied armies in the construction of precision-sighting instruments, on which so many modern war weapons depend.
About one-fifth the diameter of a human hair, the spider’s silk weaves into delicate and often nearly invisible snares. Tougher than steel or platinum wire of the same diameter, it can outlast the writhings of victims many times the spider’s size.
The same qualities make spider webbing the ideal material for the cross hairs that frame the objectives of telescopes, microscopes, surveyors’ transits, bomb-sights, range-finders, and other precision instruments. Once pulled taut, its elasticity and strength keep it strung in a perfect straight line.
In the past, for the normal requirements of precision optics, webbing has been extracted from the various garden species of spider. To meet the quantity demands of war production, however, the US Army Quartermaster Corps has had to take on strength the big and venomous Black Widow.
The spiders are stabled in glass coffee jars, fed two live flies per week, and put on a strict routine of production. Every two days, each spider is lured out of her lair for de-webbing. The thread is wound on a spindle bent from a wire coat-hanger. Production varies between 100 and 180 ft of usable thread per spider per week.