In this present article we will discuss the so-called “courtship of spiders,” some interesting kinds of spiders, and some interesting facts concerning spiders.
In the webless spiders such as the runners and jumpers, the male usually has elaborate feelers (palpi) which he displays prominently, waving them back and forth in semaphore fashion when courting the female of his choice. Sometimes the male disports himself before the female in the manner of a cocky young swain, strutting back and forth before the female. At other times he sways and dances toward the female, who in a few cases rather shyly backs away. Occasionally she also becomes excited and joins in the dance. When this takes place, the male’s suit is successful. In certain species of one family, the Pisauridae, the male catches a fly and carefully swathes it in silk and then presents it to the female of his choice.
In some of the house spiders, the male drums upon the web of the female with his palpi. She immediately comes to the entrance of her hiding place; and the male advances with gusto, swaying, dancing, and walking on his hinder legs. He finally with a quivering of his body touches the female; and she immediately falls into a cataleptic trance. The male then seizes her by a leg and drags her about, finally mating with her. She apparently does not awaken until the activity is completed.
In another of these spiders the male approaches the female, constantly vibrating the threads of the web and dancing in circles about her retreat. When the female becomes so inclined she answers the male’s signal by also pulling at the threads.
In the orb weaver the male ascends the web of the female and finally seizes the communicating thread which leads to her retreat. The two signal by plucking the threads as though playing a harp.
In most species courtship is rather dangerous for the males, which are usually much smaller than the females. If the suit is unsuccessful, the female rushes out and attacks the male as though he were an imprisoned fly, carries him into her nest, and devours him.
There are many different kinds of spiders with many different habits. The trap-door spider digs a burrow in the ground and covers it with a lid of silk. It waits in its burrow until it feels the vibration of an insect’s footsteps above. Then it pops open the trap door and catches the insect. The wolf spider is another kind that digs a burrow in the ground. Instead of building a web, it creeps up on its insect victim the way a cat stalks a mouse. Then it springs, and its poison fangs quickly end the insect’s struggles. The mother wolf spider carries her young on her back for a few weeks after they have hatched which gives them a better start in life. The crab spider can move backwards like a crab. Its two front legs spread three times the length of its body. This spider does not make a web, but waits for insects inside a flower. It catches them when they come for nectar. Some crab spiders can change color to match the color of the flower. Most crab spiders are white or yellow. Jumping spiders have a habit of almost letting a person touch them. Then, when a person is just ready to pick them up, they jump away. Jumping spiders can be found on old weather-beaten fences and court their mates with the previously-mentioned dance. The water spider spins its web under water. It carries air bubbles which it collects on the hairs of its body to the nest and inflates it. The inflated nest thus keeps the water out of it.
Many creatures eat spiders but the wasps are the worst enemies. The wasps kill the spiders and then seal them up in cells for the larvae to feed on.
Spiders kill all kinds of insects, including many that are harmful to man. Insects would destroy many of our crops of grain, vegetables, and fruit were it not for spiders, birds, and certain wasps.
It is said that a rope of spider’s silk one inch thick would hold up 74 tons. It would be three times as strong as a one-inch rope of iron. Amazing strength!
From their mode of life spiders attain their largest size and are found in greatest profusion in the tropical regions. One of the largest known spiders, found in Brazil, measures upwards of two and a half inches in length, with legs nine inches and upwards in span. The smallest known spider, found in England, is but one-twentieth of an inch in length.
Spiders, besides being skillful and crafty, are very clean. One of the common spiders may often be seen brushing and cleaning its forehead and eyes with its hairy palpi, as a cat uses its paws for a similar purpose.
When we speak of the better qualities of spiders, we must note their attachment to their young, and the frequent fondness for each other as seems to be evidenced by the apparently happy life of male and female of some species in the same web. We must not overlook the other side of the picture, however, as has been well confirmed, that in some species the female will seize and devour the male even immediately after the exercise of his natural office.
Observing therefore in nature the marks of sin, we explain with the apostle in Romans: “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” And it will continue to be in pain until Christ comes in glory and makes all things new.