THOUGH SPIDERS MAY SEEM safe in their nets, they can often fall prey to marauding ants. But thegolden orb web spider (Nephila antipodiana) has a secret weapon: a chemical repellent to ward off ant attackers.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne and National University of Singapore (NUS) have discovered the chemical, which is spun into the spiders’ silk, is a type of natural insect repellent. The find could pave the way for a new insect repellent for humans.
“This study is among the first to show animals incorporating a chemical defence as a response to the threat of predation,” says Professor Mark Elgar of the University of Melbourne’s department of zoology. “It is particularly interesting that this only occurs in spiders that are large enough, and therefore spin silk that is thick enough, to expose them to this risk of ant invasion.”