Why can't spider silk be harvested by domestically raised spiders? Well, they would eat each other, and according to one of the scientists, Sherry Adrianos, "If you try to raise spiders together, you'll be left with one big spider" (12). One solution might be transgenic goats that would produce spider silk in their milk. Heos introduces readers to the scientists, the goats, and the ethical question surrounding genetically modified organisms. Another solution might be raising silk worms that could spin spider silk, but although transgenic silkworms have spun silk that was a mixture of regular silk and spider silk, scientists don't know if the silkworms will be able to spin pure spider silk.
The balance between scientific explanation and human interest works nicely and may inspire readers to wonder, learn, and try some science of their own.
Beautiful photographs by Andy Comins show the scientists at work, the goats at play, and of course, the spiders.
Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope
by Bridget Heos
photographs by Andy Comins
published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Recommended for ages 10 and up