Silken Threads
Of Deceit

Garden Spider
Viewed Using Scanning Electron Microscope
(Image copyright- Dr. Dennis Kunkel)


By Jay Reynolds

At the website of Clifford Carnicom, a display is made of material alleged to be "suspected chemtrail ground samples" that he says were sent to him "in November and December of 1999 " from undisclosed locations in "eastern Oregon and Sacramento area CA." Carnicom further states that "unusual aircraft activity was observed in conjunction with the presence of the ground samples.

However, his report begins with a contradiction in that he also says, "The first sample was directly correlated with aerial activity; the second sample was found by a motorist on an open and paved highway in the Sacramento CA area (airbone [sic]fibers were observed prior to photography). "

This article will discuss Carnicom's claims, review what the material could
be , and discuss what needs to be done to properly identify the material.

The Carnicom Claims

Carnicom states:

1. The size of the fibers; microscopic and not normally visible to the human eye.
2. Extreme adhesiveness
3. Extreme elasticity
4. Wave nature of the fibers

The analysis on the sample fibers now includes the following methods:
1. Visual Analysis
2. Metric (measurement)
3. Chemical
4. Infra-red Spectrometry
5. Environmental conditions of sampling
6. Health Considerations"

The above analysis in actuality DOES NOT include items #4, #5, or #6 as claimed above, they are each marked as "[Unfinished segment]". The item #3 above, listed as "chemical", IS NOT a laboratory chemical analysis, but is an unorthodox "chemical test" which includes comparison of reactions between material alleged to be "spider web" and the alleged "ground sample fibers"
This "chemical test" includes applications of the following substances to both materials:
"Hair Perm Solution"
"Sulphuric Acid"
[a mixture of] "methyl ethyl ketone and acetone"

Carnicom does claim to have viewed the material under 100X microscopy
and found the alleged ground sample to be "LESS than one micron"
in diameter, and alleged "spider web" he measured to be "7 microns" in diameter.

[For a review of metric measurement, click HERE

Point #1

Carnicom's photographs may establish that the material he collected is of a certain size, and he may have also compared the alleged "ground sample" to a certain type of "spider web", but size alone does not constitute definitive proof that they are not actual spider silk.

Point #2

The application of various chemicals to a material does not constitute a chemical analysis. Only an actual, specific chemical analysis can determine the exact chemical and elemental composition of a material.



Spider silk is familiar to most people, but few actually understand the nature of how it is formed, and the range of physical characteristics it can exhibit. It is indeed a fascinating material which serves many functions and has many possibilities. As Carnicom states, it is an elastic and sometimes adhesive material, with unique properties of strength relative to it's other properties.

As seen in the image below under high magnification, spiders secrete their silk from glands located on their lower side. The secretions are liquid, but harden after they emerge from spigots located on organs known as spinnerets. This quote sums up the specifics:

"There are several glands located at the spider's abdomen,
which produce the silken thread. Every gland produces a
thread for a special purpose. There are seven different glands
known. But each spider possesses only some of these
glands and not all seven together.

The glands known as Glandula Ampulleceae major
and minor is used for the silk of the walking
thread. Glandula Pyriformes is used for the production
of the attaching threads. Glandula Aciniformes produces
threads for the encapsulation of prey. Glandula
Tubiliformes produces thread for cocoons. Glandula
Coronatae is used for the production of the adhesive threads.

Normally a spider has three pairs of spinners. But there
are spiders with just one pair or as many as with four
pairs of spinners. Every spinner has it own function.
There are small tubes in the spinners, which are connected
to the glands. The number of tubes varies between 2 and 50.000."

As you can see from the photos below, the large number of spigots produce multiple fibrils which then are combined by the spider into bundles similar to cables. Some silks are used for trapping prey and are spread with an adhesive, sticky substance for that purpose, while some are not.

Spider Spinneret (silk being secreted from piriform gland spigots, Spiny Back Spider, Gastercantha sp.)
(SEM x3,740)
(Image copyright- Dr. Dennis Kunkel)





Spiny Back Spider
Piriform Silk Glands
Secreting Silk,
Castercantha sp.
(SEM x8,025)
(Image copyright- Dr. Dennis Kunkel)

The spinnerets of a typical spider viewed from the rear. Drawing by Ben Prins. Annotation by Bill Amos.

1. Colulus, a vestigial spinneret,
probably without function.
2. Anterior spinneret.
3. Median spinneret.
4. Posterior spinneret.
5. Anus.
6. Posterior spinneret.
7. Median spinneret.
8.Anterior Spinneret


What are the Physical Characteristics of Spider Silk?

Carnicom alleges that, "In addition to being substantially smaller in size than the spider webs that were measured at 7 microns, the fibers of the ground sample shown are uniformly adhesive, and show no such separation of function or form."

The book "Biology of Spiders"[1], states:

"page 112- "In orb-web spiders, though, the amount of silk leaving the gland can be controlled by valves situated just in front of the spigots(Fig. 84). The diameter of the valves can be regulated by muscular action, thereby varying the thickness of the thread (R. S. Wilson, 1962a, b). Most silk threads have a diameter of only a few microns(Fig 85), and many are even thinner than 1 micron. A well-known example of extremely fine silk threads is found in the catching silk ("hackle band") of cribellate spiders, where the individual fibers measure only 0.01-0.02 microns(Fig. 92c)." [1]

While some spider silk may be produced that matches the 7 micron silk displayed by Carnicom, some spider silk can be up to 100 times smaller.

The above answers my POINT# 1 above, and proves that the physical size of the alleged "ground sample" material is not necessarily inconsistent with the known size of spider silk.

Scanning Electron Micrograph
of Nephila Clavipes Spider
Dragline Silk Shows Diameter
of 12 Microns Overall With
Threads up to 4 Microns
(courtesy of Dr. K. Augsten IMB-Jena)



Atomic Force Microscope
Image of Spider Silk
Shows Diameter of
7-8 Microns Overall
and Thread Diameter 1
Micron or Less

(Image from The Claremont Colleges)


Carnicom states:
"Spider webs do not possess microscopic
wave forms, and are not formed at the sub-micron
level. Wave forms are fairly common in synthetic
fibers such as nylon and polyester. "

The image at left shows cribellate spider silk,
which is known to have just such a wavy texture
which is "combed out" by strong bristles on the spider's legs which are equipped with fine cuticular teeth.


Photo- Ed Nieuwenhuys


In an effort to portray the alleged "ground sample"
as being other than spider silk, Carnicom states:

"No fluid substance is visible on the exterior of any of the ground sample fibers."

However, the previously referenced book states:

"The catching threads of cribellate spiders are especially interesting because they function without any gluey substance - unlike the sticky threads of ecribellate spiders. Additionally, the cribellate silk has some adhesive properties, although these properties are not well understood."-page 121 [1]

Carnicom finds that one distinguishing characteristic of the alleged "ground sample" is
"Extreme elasticity". Normal spidersilk has long been known to
be both extremely strong and elastic, and in fact, much progress has been made towards producing it
commercially for many uses.

What are the Chemical Characteristics of Spider Silk?

Spider silk is a natural polypeptide polymeric protein, which is a long chain of amino acids. Spider silk is a scleroprotein, a member of the group of proteins that provide structure to living things. Other scleroproteins include collagen, which makes up ligaments, and keratin, which makes up fingernails, feathers, horns and hoofs. The chemical difference between these proteins is the mole percent and sequence of various amino acids present in different proteins.

Specifically, the protein that makes up spider silk is known as fibroin, and recent research has identified two subsets of proteins within fibroin which make up spider silk, spidroin 1 and spidroin 2. The following quote summarizes what is currently known about the chemical composition of spider silk:

"The mole percent and sequence of the amino acids differentiates
natural polypeptides such as silk, mohair, spider silk, and human
hair. The composition of spider dragline silk, which emanates from
the major ampullate gland, is dependent on species, diet, weather,
and other factors [2]. Hence, the composition provided in Table I
for Nephila clavipes [3], a large spider found in the southeastern
part of US and elsewhere and whose silk has been studied as much
as any spider silk, should be considered exemplary rather than
definitive [2]. Values given are mole percents [3].

Gly Ala Gly Leu Tyr Ser Asp Pro Cys
Nephila clavipes 40.3 28.4 10.1 4.5 3.1 3.0 1.9 1.7 0

The number average molecular weight is in the 500,000 -750,000
g/m range [4]. Solvation is difficult to achieve, requiring harsh
(chaotic) solvents, such as LiBr or LiClO4 [2]."

Model of spider dragline silk showing alanine crystals in both well oriented sheets(rectangles) and unaggregated crystals
(waffled). The two differing crystal formations lie in a glycine matrix(curved lines) and combined give spider silk it's unique properties.

from Science 271:84­87 (1996)




In response to my question about the typical amino acid composition of spider silk,
Dr.Merri Lynn Casem wrote to me:

"As you correctly state, alanine and glycine are the major amino
acid components in spider silk making up 20 to 40% of the total mole
percent. The ratios can vary depending on what type of silk it is (spiders
can produce up to 8 different silks) My research and that of others have
shown that the levels of serine become elevated (from 4% to 25%) in the egg
casing silks of some spiders. I am not aware if the protein composition is
known specifically for the ballooning silk, but I would guess that it would
be the same as dragline or major ampullate silk. One characteristic of most
known silks is the lack of the amino acids cysteine or methionine."

The standard chemical analysis technique used to identify and quantify
amino acid composition is high performance liquid chromatography
(HPLC) . This type of analysis is widely available at
commercial and university laboratories.

Some spider silk is known to have an adhesive substance which is described in "Biology of Spiders" in this quote:

"A chemical analysis of the sticky substance [of spidersilk-JR] revealed the presence of nitrate, (KNNO3), phosphate(KH2PO4), and pyrrolidone (C4H7NO) (Schildknecht et al., 1972)." -Page 116 [1]

How Does This Material get Airborne?

As mentioned in my previous article on contrails, spider webs sometimes do fall from the sky, as a result of the spider's technique of migration on air currents using their silk to "balloon". The following quotes illustrate what is known about this phenomenon:

"Such widespread distribution leads to the question of how spiders manage to populate very remote areas, such as islands, for instance. One explanation is based on the ability of many young spiders to float through the air on their own threads. This "ballooning", as it is called, is actively undertaken by the spider. The spiderling stands on "tiptoe", facing the wind, and inclines its abdomen upward while exuding a silk thread. This strand is caught by the slightest current, which can easily lift the spider. Usually the voyage ends after a rather short distance. Under favorable wind conditions, however, these aeronauts may attain quite remarkable heights and distances. Spiders, as a kind of ‘aerial plankton," have ben caught from airplanes flying at altitudes of several thousand meters(Gretsch, 1949;Glick, 1939). In 1832 Darwin noted in his diary that innumerable small spiders had been blown into the rigging of the Beagle 100km off the coast of South America." "Formerly it was believed that only young spiders could fly on their own threads, but recently it has been found that many small spiders can do so as well (Richter, 1971; Blanke, 1973). In the linyphiids, adult males and females can take to the air- often thousands of them at a time(Bristowe, 1939; Van Wingerden and Vugts, 1974; Vugts and Van Wingerden, 1976). Whereas the gossamer threads of young spiderlings are seen in Indian summer, the mass flights of linyphiids occurs during fall and winter. A prerequisite for such aeronautical behavior is a sudden rise in temperature(Duffey, 1956)."-Page 233 [1]

Dr. Rod Crawford, curator of arachnids at the Burke Museum, Seattle , Washington, conducted post-eruption ecological recovery research at the Mt. St. Helens blast site and discovered that large amounts of ballooning spiders
were the first colonizers to arrive. Responding to my query about the phenomenon, he wrote:

"There is no question that vast quantities of spider silk are in the air at
almost any time (mainly daylight hours). For example, our studies at Mt.
St. Helens in the early 80s, using "blasted" sites 7-30 km from likely
source areas, found an average of one ballooning spider landing per square
meter per day! Multiply that by the number of square meters in (for
example) your yard, which is closer to source areas and probably has a
higher immigration rate... The mind boggles, doesn't it? Spiders have
been known to "take off" en masse, possibly as many as a million leaving
one acre field in a day under ideal conditions. That's a lotta silk!
Large masses of airborne spider silk (as opposed to individual
threads) are from a different source -- they are believed to be fragments
of the layer of "dragline" silk spiders leave over the surface of a meadow
or a tree on days of high activity. When the light is right you can see
this layer -- it's called "gossamer." There is no doubt about its spider
origin. Updrafts can lift shreds of this material into the air and that is
probably the main source of "masses" of spider silk that go flying about.
I have no way of knowing if there is also artificial fiber
material flying about but there is so much spider silk out there that no
other explanation is really needed."


Dr. Matt Greenstone, responding to my request for an evaluation of Carnicom's presentation, said:

"Thank you for this interesting story. The photos of material on the road and
vehicle in Alaska certainly look a great deal like ballooning silk. It is not
unusual to see ballooning lines more than thirty feet long, and sometimes it
has a complex structure like that in the photos.

The structure of any given silken strand, i.e. it's thickness, how many fibers
are involved, and whether it is wavy or has droplets, is very varied. Some
silk IS wavy, and some adhesive silks do not have droplets."

Other articles discussing ballooning spiders may be seen at:

"Thread For Heights"- New Scientist

"Pyroclastic Flows, Insects and Spiders"

Mt. St. Helens Recovery- Seattle Times

Dispersal of Spiderlings-ORNL

This Spider Silk Was Found Near The
Same Area as the Carnicom "Ground Sample"

Spider Silk Sample Found September 27, 1999
30 miles SE of Sacramento, CA, near Ione

Here is the eyewitness report:

"I will try to give you a review of why it is conclusable it
is spiderweb, beyond the fact I have seen this material along
with its passengers for a period of 23 years, on cars, roads,
trees, etc. on a seasonal basis.

On 9/27/99, while leaving the driveway, to go to the school, I saw
clumps and strands of spider silk on the asphalt. While travelling,
I also saw strands descending from the air, up to 8 miles away.
So, upon returning, remembering the
photo shown on
Carnicoms site
, I then handled and collected some strands on
a stick (also like his photo), and took some pics of some on the
ground and also on a stick.

While doing so, the contractor I had called weeks before,
showed up to do a pest control job on an outbuilding. I asked
him to tell me what was the stuff on the ground and he
proceeded to tell me of the commoness and use of them
as a "predictor by farmers" of wet weather to come.

I did not wear protective gear. I did touch and stretch out
some of the webs. I did use a clean sterile jelly jar and
kept some of the webs on a granite counter at room temperature
for about a month. No change occurred over that period.

Offered some of my samples to anyone who wanted them,
but then became rather bored and decided to pitch them out.
The jar did remain sealed over the period I kept it. I collected
the webs from the ground using wooden skewers. The material
was very self adhesive and it was a bit difficult to place in the
jar, without also including the stick itself. "
- By


Based on the factual and documented information shown above, natural spider silk meets all the "outstanding characteristics" of the material presented by Carnicom which are: "size of the fibers", "extreme adhesiveness", "extreme elasticity" and "wave nature of the fibers".

Carnicom's work shows an intentionally shallow presentation of what is known to be normal, which should always be well understood before proceeding to examine the unknown.

Carnicom has not presented an actual chemical analysis of any sort, but claims in a realaudio file that a reporter has not covered his story because:

“I then informed the reporter that at this time certain lab
results had come in, but that it could be easily proven that the lab conclusions
were false, and that that portion of the story would not be discussed unless the
paper indicated a willingness to investigate my claim to a sufficient depth."

Thus, continuing the pattern time and time again, promoters of 'chemtrails' claim to have found material, have information, photographs, testimony or 'proof' but never actually show anything which can be independently documented or verified.

It can be easily seen at numerous websites discussing the issue of 'chemtrails'
that gullible people are quite willing to believe anything with no sourcing, documentation, or verification at all. The result of such action is to perpetuate misinformation, propagate rumor and hoaxes, and promote an idea which has no substance.

I recommend that Carnicom have proper analysis done of the material he claims to have, document it in a verifiable form, and disclose all information relative to it's original source . To do otherwise is to mislead others with unsupported and uninformed speculation and heresay.


Clifford Carnicom was given advance copy of this article,
and asked to commment. No response has been received as of 3/16/99.


[1] Foelix, Ranier. Biology of Spiders, Harvard University Press, 1982, ISBN 0-647-07431-9

[2] Simmons, A., Michal, C. A., & Jelinski, L. W. (1996). Molecular orientation and two-component nature of the crystalline fraction of spider dragline silk. Science, 271, 84-87.



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