While the architectural intricacy of spider webs is with no doubt a remarkable natural phenomenon, spider silk – the gluey fiber that spiders use to make their webs – is what has been captivating scientists for many years.

The sticky material has been touted for years as the next big thing in biomaterials because of its unusual tensile strength combined with flexibility. However, researchers have been having difficulties in figuring out how to produce spider silk in large amounts due to its complicated genetic structure, that is, until now.

Recently, scientists from the Army Research Lab have managed to come up with an innovative method to sequence the genes that allow spiders to produce the spider silk, moving scientists closer to the next big advance in biomaterials. The glue has the potential for many unique applications and is biodegradable, water soluble and stays sticky for months or even years.

For example, the glue could be applied in areas where mosquito-borne illnesses are prevalent. Also, farmers could spray the glue along a barn wall to protect their livestock from insects that bite or cause disease, and then could rinse it off without worrying about polluting waterways with dangerous pesticides.