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it thinks suitable, which is generally to a place nearly opposite to that on which the thread it is now dragging after it was fastened down, the spider stops, and gives the loose cord a good pull; this draws it tight across
Dotted Line, the track by which the Spider brought its line. the perpendicular line, and the spider then runs along this horizontal line, till it comes to the middle, that is, to the place where the two lines cross one another; and from that middle it proceeds to carry up to the outline cords, twenty, or thirty, or fifty radiating threads; the web then begins to look like the picture in the first part of this lesson; and so quickly does the spider make these threads, that it seems as if it were flying up and down the lines. When all the threads are made, the spider gives each one of them a good pull, and if any one should crack, or appear to be loose, it immediately mends it.
The web being so far made, the spider next begins to weave many threads round and round across the radiating lines, always commencing this work at the centre. And on crossing each line, the spider gums the new cross-thread down upon it, leaving also some loose gummy drops upon the thread, to entangle flies that may be caught in its meshes. Having finished the web, the spider tries every crossing thread with its front feet; and as soon as it is satisfied that the web is
well made, it very often bites out the centre bit, where all the lines have met, and places itself in this hole to watch for flies, gnats, and moths. Sometimes it makes a little nest close by, and carries a few threads into this nest, that it may know when the web is touched.
Sometimes another spider has been seen creeping over the threads, to pay its friend a visit; but, as geometrical spiders have not a character for good temper, the stranger is often afraid of venturing far without permission : so the visiting spider gently pulls a few of the threads to give notice it is there. If the owner of the web does not like this visit, it very rudely sends the new comer off, and as soon as it goes back to the middle of its net, pulls each thread to see whether the intruder has injured any one of them. In Proverbs, Solomon beautifully represents the spider handling the strings of her web as a musician, “ taking hold with her hands," as the fingers of a musician take hold of the strings of his harp. By this remark we see, that the wisest of men closely observed and admired the works of creation.
There is one spider called the Gossamer spider, which, mounting to the top of a blade of grass, or upon the top of a rail, will throw out many loose threads; then folding its feet close together under its body, will turn on its back, and lying down upon one end of its light threads, allow the air to lift up the silken streamer; and thus, upon its own thread, it is wafted high over grass and corn, hedges and ditches. Sometimes in the autumn, whole grass-plots and fields are covered with the long white threads of these gossamer spiders, which fall down in the cool of the evening; and when loaded in the early morning with dew, glitter like silver.
Other flying spiders, when they have thrown out one thread, keep folding it backwards and forwards, till a delicate bed is constructed, like a flake of snow. Then each little spider, lying down upon its light
silken chariot, is carried by the winds high into the air. So high are they sometimes lifted up, that people
, have seen them sailing far above the top of the highest tower of York cathedral. These flying spiders are generally young; older spiders appear too heavy to rise so high.
Some spiders hide themselves in the edges of leaves, and throw over the green shrubs a few scattered threads, to entangle their prey. Some hide in the cups of flowers, and patiently wait till a passing fly peeps in to search after the sweet juices hidden there.
LESSON 28.–OTHER SPIDERS. Sedentary-quiet, still (Lat. sedeo, I sit). Incessantly-without stopping. Vagrants—wanderers.
Oval-egg-shaped (Lat. ovum, an egg). In continuing the history of spiders, let me remind you that the whole of their family is termed the Arachnida class. Some are called Sedentary spiders, because they live in webs from which they seldom move away. Others are called Vagrants, because they form snug little nests in concealed corners, from whence they watch for passing insects; and the moment that a heedless fly chances to wander that way, they run out, and with dexterous agility pounce upon it. Others are called Hunters, because they incessantly wander about in search of food, and spring upon their prey like a tiger. Others are called Floaters, because they form oval nests, which they line with silk, and mounting upon them, glide over ponds and ditches.
Amongst the vagrant spiders, one is amusingly quick in following the movements of the insect it wishes to catch. A person named Evelyn observed one day, on looking out of his window in the city of Rome, that a small fly had settled upon the window-sill, and immediately after he saw a vagrant spider, with a slow and noiseless step, creep out of a crack in the wood. On came the spider, fixing upon the fly its keen little eyes;
and as it approached the fly, it was exactly as if one spirit animated the two, for the spider watched, and turned, and moved, just as the fly moved; sometimes twisting its body sideways, sometimes sliding backwards, sometimes stepping forwards, until at last, by one bold spring, the spider darted upon the fly, and bore it off in triumph to its own lurking place in the wood.
There is also one spider that lives under the quiet water of ponds. This spider has an oily varnish over its skin, which keeps the waters from touching its body; and between this varnish and the water, there is a small space filled with air. When this spider sets about building her house under the water, she is observed to spin several long threads, and to send them loosely floating about, in order that they may fall upon the leaves of water plants which grow at the bottom of ponds. As soon as she has fastened down several of these long threads, she takes her stand upon them, and spins away until she has formed an oval silken chamber, bearing something the shape of half a pigeon's egg, with the bottom left open. Over this nest, the spider then spreads a gummy fluid that looks like clear glass, and most likely this fluid is the same oily varnish with which God has taught her to clothe her own body. As soon as the water spider's glassy roof is finished, she rises to the top of the pond, catches up a bubble of air, and looking, with this bubble around her, like a drop of quicksilver, she sinks through the water to her clever little house amongst the weeds, and passing under its roof, drops her bubble of air in the midst.
No sooner has this bubble of air driven out some of the water, than out she comes again, and rising once more to the surface of the pond, catches up another bubble of air, with which she again sinks down. And this work she will repeat ten or twelve times, until her chamber is filled with air and emptied of its water. Having now made her silken hall fit for her residence,
she nestles down in it, quietly watching for the water insects that may chance to creep past; and immediately that one is entangled amongst her scattered threads, she darts out, and brings it into her diving-bell, where she feeds upon it at her
leisure. Many of these spiders are found in the ditches round London.
The water spider that is found in fen ditches is of rather a large size. This spider is said to watch for leaves, for bits of stick, for straws, or for any odd thing that may happen to float near, and mounting upon them, will fasten them together. with a few silken threads. When this foundation is firm, the spider spins upon it an oval ball, which is sometimes as much as three inches across, and then seating itself upon this raft of silken-bound weeds, the spider is wafted away over the water; but as soon as it catches sight of a drowning insect, off it jumps, seizes upon it, and carrying it back to its weedy boat, eats it up at its own convenience.
One species of spiders, termed the Mygale or mason spiders, make their nests by boring long holes into the ground, and they generally select for this
purpose some sloping, dry situation. These holes or tubes they line with delicate silk of dazzling whiteness, and make a door at the entrance, of layers of silk and layers of clay, which fits like a lid. A fine thread of silk is fastened to one side of this door, and as the spider carries this thread Tube or Nest made in the ground by down to the bottom of its
the Mygale Spider, cell, it knows in a moment when anything touches it.
The largest spider ever heard of is a mygale or mason spider, found in the Brazils, in South America.