Cobwebs tend to take on a particular menace at this time of year, but military scientists have been conducting research that turns them into something deadly.
Researchers working for the UK’s Ministry of Defence have been spraying spider webs with diseases including Ebola and the Black Death.
The research is being conducted to test the lifespan of the bacteria and viruses that cause the diseases while in the environment.
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Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory have been spraying spiders’ webs with bacteria and viruses (pictured) that cause deadly diseases in experiments to see how long it takes the organisms to die. They hope it can tell them how long it may take an environment to become safe after a biological attack
It could prove vital in helping officials work out how long an area hit by a biological weapon will remain hazardous following an attack.
The webs are collected from the spiders on specially designed frames before being placed into a sealed container where the web is sprayed with one of the diseases.
As the web is innert it does not absorb or react with the virus or bacteria, allowing scientists to alter the temperature, humidity and light levels to see how they effect the organisms.
Dr Steve Lever, who is leading the work at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, said the research is aimed at helping prepare for the threat of a biological attack.
He said: ‘By increasing our basic understanding of the survival characteristics of threat agents, we can help determine the best response to any biological release – whether accidental or intentional.’
The Ebola virus is transmitted between victims through body fluids such as blood and vomit.
Scientists have created special frames to help them collect the spiders webs as the arachnids spin (pictured)
The webs are spun around a frame (left) which is then placed into a container and sprayed with viruses that cause Ebola or the bacteria responsible for the Black Death (right)
A recent outbreak of the disease has caused more than 11,000 deaths in West Africa. Victims often bleed to death as the cells lining their blood vessels break down.
However, little is known about how long the virus can survive in the environment after being left behind by victims.
There is some data that suggests it can survive for several weeks in blood and several hours on contaminated surfaces.
Similarly the bacteria that caused the Black Death – Yersinia pestis – is also thought to be able to persist in soil for several months.
Some tests have shown it can persist in soil for more than a year.
As spiders’ silk is inert, the viruses and bacteria do not react and are not absorbed by the webs (pictured)
THE SPIDER-PROOF SHED
If you dread entering your shed for fear you will brush against cobwebs or be set upon by spiders, there’s now a solution.
The ‘world’s first’ spider-proof shed has been launched and it comes complete with toughened glass windows and silicone-sealed joints to keep the arachnids out.
It’s also painted sky blue – a colour that is said to deter spiders – and can be made to smell of peppermint, citrus and insecticide to repel the creepy crawlies.
It is intended to simply be an airtight fortress.
All the joints of the shed are sealed with silicone so there are no gaps or cracks for spiders to squeeze though.
The windows are airtight and made from toughened glass, while the airtight door has a draft seal.
Even the interior of the shed is covered in ‘spider repellent lining paper’ to stop arachnids coming in through the cladding.
It’s painted sky blue because of a common theory the colour is least likely to attract spiders because they wouldn’t want to build a web in the sky.
Meanwhile, a heavy duty polyester-backed roof is designed to keep all bugs and water out.
However, all of this peace of mind comes with a hefty price tag of £2,000 ($3,100).
The shed has been designed by Leeds-based Tiger Sheds in response to a survey that claims a quarter of people are too scared to venture into the sheds for fear of meeting a spider.