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sometimes stretch out a few long lines of cord beyond the net, for the purpose of catching any rambling fly that may pass that way. The house spider does not live in her web, but hides in some crack in a wall close by; or if there be no crack, she spins for herself a little silken house, into which she crouches down out of sight. Into this hiding-place she carries, from the edge of the web, a great many loose threads, and the moment one of them trembles, she darts out to see what is going on.
As I have already mentioned the spider's treatment of the entangled fly, in the last lesson, I need not again enter upon the detail of her housekeeping:
Some spiders cannot bear a dusty web; they have been seen to lift up the net with one of their feet, and to give it a good shake; but this business is performed with great skill, the jerk being always just strong enough to throw off the dust, but never rough enough to break one cord. You will seldom see any broken wing or leg of a fly left on a web, for spiders generally carry all fragments into their snug little home close by; and often they may be seen carrying a dead fly on their backs, as a man would carry a sack of corn.
Have you not sometimes seen a spider hanging by its thread, suddenly drop from the ceiling of a room, and then all in a moment change its mind and run up its thread, as if it were a ladder? But what becomes of the ladder? The spider does not leave it behind, for when the spider is out of sight, its thread is gone too! Yes, it actually carried away its silken ladder, rolling it up into a little ball as it re-mounted to the ceiling; and this ball is formed with a claw or hook, that lay snugly hidden between the two carding hooks on its hind legs; this small claw being seldom brought into use, unless the spider wishes to seize upon a drop
Spiders cannot always continue spinning their webs; there comes a time when the body loses the power of forming the gummy fluid. Naturalists who have
watched them believe that they can only make six or seven webs during their lives. What then are they to do ?—for webs they must have, or they will starve. The only plan seems to be, for an old spider to seize upon the ready-made net of a younger one, and this they often try to do; but there is always a desperate battle between them, which generally ends in the death
Some spiders live very amicably together, but more generally they are quarrelsome; yet men have sometimes made spiders quite tame.
Å Frenchman, who was very desirous of obtaining the silk of spiders, in order to weave it into dresses, tied many lines of pack-thread across the ceiling of a garret; after which he put 800 spiders into the room. He used to feed these spiders with plates full of flies at a time, and they grew so tame, that they would come down as soon as he opened the door; but after making one pair of stockings with their silk, he gave up the trial, for he found it would require the webs of seven hundred thousand spiders to make one pound of silk, and he was obliged to twist 1800 of their threads together to make one thread strong enough for his purpose.
A few threads are, however, still collected from spiders' webs, for the use of astronomers, when making some of their most curious telescopes.
Have you ever heard the history of one French spider, the spider poor Pelisson tamed when he was shut up in the dark cold prison of the Bastile in Paris ? No window lighted up his dismal cell; but there was a chink in the wall, that threw one ray of light into his gloomy room. A spider had spread out its net on the edge of this chink; and as Pellisson watched it, he noticed it so gently, that the spider forgot to be afraid, and seemed almost to love the poor man.
When he made a signal to it, or gave a little sound that it knew, the spider would come down and sit on his knee, and eat a dead fly. Do you know the sad end of this spider? The coldhearted governor of the prison heard of it, and learned that poor Pelisson loved the gentle creature; but he had no pity, no kindness in his heart, so he went one day into the prison, snatched up the spider, and crushed it to death!
from the centre.
LESSON 27.-GARDEN AND FIELD SPIDERS. Suspended_hung (Lat. pendeo, I hang). Radiating-proceeding in straight lines Pausing-ceasing, stopping. At random-without thought or plan. Intruder-one who comes unbidden (Lat. Dexterously-skilfully (Lat. dexter, the trudo, I thrust).
We are now to examine a few spiders less commonly seen than the house spider. The one that most nearly resembles our house friend, is called the Geometrical or Garden Spider. Observing eyes may often see the silken cords of this spider's web suspended in the autumn, amongst the sprigs of plants. I remember, when quite a little child, pausing from play to look at a geometrical web that was fastened to the leaves of a garden shrub. I suppose it was the first I had ever seen, for I stood before it with astonished delight, and for some time watched the spider in its widely spreadout net. I saw that the cords of this garden web were not loosely thrown together, or piled one upon another, like those of the house spider's web, but that each line was skilfully laid at a regular distance from the rest, just as a wheelwright would arrange the spokes and rims of a wheel.
I longed to know how this web had been made, but no one was by to tell me, nor did I, until many years after, learn the manner of the geometrical spider's proceedings. Should your eye have noticed such a web, perhaps you may also wish to know how the spider sets about weaving its silken wheel.
Then fancy a good plump spider standing on the twig of a tree, and pressing its spinnerets against the wood,
to cause the silken fluid to flow out. The next moment you might see it lift itself up; and then, without moving away, draw out a long thread, and send one end of it loose into the air, for the wind to waft it to some neighbouring leaf or branch, where the moist gum upon the thread would glue it down.
As soon as this thread ceased to flap about, you would see the
Geometrical Spider's Web. spider give it a good pull; and if it held tight, he would make a bridge of it, passing and re-passing over it, often not less than six times, each time laying
it a new and gummy thread, to cause the line to become very strong. This done, you might next see the spider creep to a fresh branch, or else stand at the end of the bridge cord, and send out another line into the
air, to fall upon some other twig; as soon as this second thread was caught, he would thicken it like the first cord.
In this way a garden spider will sometimes throw off at random three, four, or five threads; all of which it thickens, because these threads are to form the strong selvage or outline cords for its round web. These spiders do not seem to care where their loose threads fasten; being equally well pleased if the wind blow them into the form of a square -a triangle A-or into any other shape; for each spider knows full well by the instinct its Creator has given it, how to suspend its wheel-formed net, amidst these rambling lines.
To begin its round web, the spider runs to the middle of one of the strong selvage cords, and lays upon it a drop of the silken fluid from its spinnerets; and then drawing its line after it, down the spider drops, as straight as an arrow, to a lower branch, or to the ground; and there it gums down the straight thread it has brought from the top selvage cord. This done, the spider runs up the line till mounted once more upon the outline cord; it will sometimes move a little way off, and again drop perpendicularly down, to form another perpendicular line; but more generally it makes a horizontal line, that is, a line straight across the perpendicular line.
And now mark, how dexterously the spider has been taught by its Maker to form this horizontal line. Softly creeping upon the top outline cords, it travels on till it gets a long way from the line that féll straight to the ground; here the spider stops, and gums down a new silken thread. This done, it continues its walk upon the outline cords, spinning as it goes; and as it trudges on, the new-made thread keeps floating loosely behind; but, fearful lest the wind should blow the new and sticky thread against the outline cords, upon which it is walking, the spider keeps pushing the loose thread off with one of its hind legs. When it has walked as far as