Spider

THE SPIDER.

Spiders  have jointed bodies and legs. The bodies are divided into two regions, the anterior of these bearing four pairs of legs and two smaller pairs of appendages. The most anterior of these are the poison claws. They have a poison gland in the base, while the end of the claw tapers to a point. The front of the head has from six to eight simple eyes. The hinder half of the body, the abdomen, is without appendages, save for two or three pairs of very small projections, the spinnerets. Each of these has numbers of openings at the tip, through which a fluid is forced at will. This hardens immediately it comes in contact with the air and furnishes the silk of which the spider's web is woven. Fine as it is, this silk is really a cable, being made of numbers of finer threads, one for each opening in the spinnerets. They use the silk for making webs, for cocoons for the eggs, nests, and in some cases for parachutes for flying. Each species makes its own type of web.

Spiders breathe by means of sacks—so-called lungs—on the lower side of the abdomen.

Our common house spider is the same as that of Europe; the largest species we see is the one found occasionally in banana bunches.

The Tarantula  has the greatest reputation from the unfounded belief that its bite causes madness which can be cured only by music. So far as is known there is only one species which can cause serious effects by biting man, and even these cases are not sufficiently authenticated.

The Bird Catching Spider  is a gigantic spider native to Surinam and elsewhere. It preys upon insects and small birds, which it hunts for and pounces upon. It is about two inches long, very hairy, and almost black; its feet when spread out occupy a surface of nearly a foot in diameter.

Hunter-Spiders. A great many of this species construct no webs, but use their silk merely for lining their dwellings—which are commonly underground—or the construction of protective investments for the eggs. Such forms simply stalk their prey, seizing the victims, when near enough, by a sudden spring. One such type is the tarantula spider described above.

Water Spiders  are found in ponds and ditches in this country. They hunt down small crustaceans but do not construct a web. For the protection of the eggs a thimble-shaped nest is woven, moored by threads to stems or leaves, and smeared externally with liquid silk to make it watertight. The nest is filled with air brought down from the surface of the pond in successive bubbles adhering to the hairy body of the spider.

Spiders are usually thought and spoken of as "insects" by the layman. Many persons call almost every creature an insect that is small and supposed to be useless, or suspected of harmfulness. But spiders are different from insects properly so called in many important particulars of structure and habits. Spiders have four pairs of legs, while insects have six legs. The spherical abdomen, which is cut off from the head by a deep constriction, shows no segmentation, and on its floor are large glands (the arachnidium) producing the silk which is exuded from three pairs of tubes with sievelike openings, at the end of the abdomen, called the spinnerets. Their nervous system is highly developed, and they show much intelligence. Spiders are of two sexes, but the male is usually much smaller than his mate.

When egg-laying time comes the female forms a little silken bed attached to grass, or underneath a stone, or stuck to some object, or placed in a burrow, or hung like a hammock by long guy lines, and deposits in it eggs like drops of jelly. One sort places this under water, forming a nest like an inverted cup and filling it with bubbles of air, and spending much of its time in this real diving bell. A common garden spider (Lycosa) forms globular cocoons, and drags them around attached to the spinnerets, regardless of jars and bumps. In a large section of the tribe this is all the use that is made of the silk, which differs from that of insects (caterpillars) in being made up of a great number of finer threads laid together while soft enough to unite into one.

It is a common habit with spiders to draw out a thread behind them as they walk, and in this way they make the great quantities of threads that sometimes cover a field of grass. This is the gossamer often so annoying to us in late summer, but a thing of beauty when glistening with dew.

The gossamer of autumn, however, is made by the very small spiders of the genus Erigones, whichhide in the herbage, but in the fine weather that comes after the first frosts climb to the tops of posts, fences and tall weeds, in company with the young of larger kinds, and "turning their spinnerets upward allow threads to be drawn out by ascending currents of air, until sometimes the spiders are lifted off their feet and carried long distances." These are the "ballooning spiders" of which one hears. In this way the whole country is overspread with lines and tangles of trailing silken threads that whiten our clothes and stick to our faces.

Three or four hundred species of spiders might be obtained in almost any locality in this country by diligent search, and thousands of foreign species are known; hence only a few conspicuous examples may be mentioned here. The tribe may be divided according to habits into two groups of families: 1. The hunting spiders, which run on the ground or on plants, catching insects by chase or by strategy; and 2. The cobweb spiders, which make webs to catch insects, and live all the time in the web or in a nest near it.

In the former group are the Drassidæ, a family of small, varicolored spiders that run about on the ground or in bushes, one large genus of which (Clubiana) includes pale, or purely white species; their cocoons are baglike or tubular. The most conspicuous genus is Misumena, in which the species are white or brightly colored, and which spend their days among flowers, waiting in rigid attitude for an insect to alight near them on which they may pounce. Spiders can see well for four or five inches, but not much beyond that. The Attidæ are small, hairy, or scaly jumping spiders, often brightly colored, that are found in open places and on the tops of low plants, whence they leap on their prey, or make long jumps to escape danger. To the next family, Lycosidæ, belong the large spiders most often seen in fields and pastures. They are fond of dry, sandy places, where the females live in silk-lined holes. These lycosids are long-legged, rapid runners, and capture their game by running it down. To this family belongs the famous tarantula of southern Europe, fabled to produce a madness (tarantism) in a person bitten that could be cured only by dancing to music of a certain lively measure called "tarantella." (The so-called "tarantula" of our southwestern desert region, is, however, another species.) A common northern spider (Lycosa carolinensis ) is its equal in size, (the longest legs covering a spread of three inches), and in color, black with gray legs. Still larger is another North American lycosid (Dolomedes tenebrosus ), gray with spiny legs ringed with dark and light gray, which spreads four inches.

These big ugly creatures, and the bites of spiders generally, are regarded with unnecessary dread by most persons. The jaws (mandibles) are close together at the front of the head. They are two-jointed, the basal joint stout, and the end joint or claw slender and sharp-pointed. The claw has near its point a small hole, which is the outlet of the poison gland. "The poison kills or disables the insects which are captured by the spider. Its effect on the human skin varies in different persons. Sometimes it has no effect at all; oftener it causes some soreness and itching ... and cases have been known in which it caused serious inflammation which lasted a long time. Spiders seldom bite and only in self-defense, the bites so commonly charged to them being often the work of other animals."

In the family Agalenidæ we meet with the first of the web makers. These are spiders of moderate size, characterized by a big head marked off from the thorax by converging grooves. Their natural home is in the grass, where their flat, closely woven sheets of silk, almost invisible by reason of their transparency, but brought into plain view when coated with dew or dust, are spread everywhere. They also are fond of getting into cellars and old buildings, and constructing webs across corners, bracketwise. Somewhere the web sinks like a narrow funnel into a short tube in which the owner hides, watching hungrily until a fly alights on his silken platform.

"The Therididæ," says Emerton, "are the builders of the loose and apparently irregular webs in the upper corners of rooms, in fences and among rocks, and between the leaves and branches of low trees and bushes. They are generally small, soft and light-colored spiders, with the abdomen large and round and the legs slender and usually without spines.... Most of the Therididæ live always in their webs, hanging by their feet, back downward. The webs have in some part a more closely woven space under which the spider stands." These spiders are quick to avail themselves of any chance to spin their shapeless meshes of almost invisible silk, which few regard as real "webs," in closets, cellars, and all over the house or barn. Many of them are adorned with gay colors or striking patterns, and some are much feared, especially Latrodectus mactans, about half an inch long, which is black with scarlet spots. It is common from Canada to Chile, and everywhere is considered fatally poisonous—why, it is difficult to say.

Last of our list, and highest in rank, are the Epeiridæ, the "orb weavers," as they are often called, who make those regular spiral nets which are in our mind's eye when we think of cobwebs. Most of the moderately large and handsome house and garden spiders are of this family, and everyone can easily examine their work, although it is less easy to watch them at it, as the webs are built and repaired at night. Among the obscurer and foreign species the abdomen often shows humps, points and long forward-reaching horns that make them exceedingly grotesque, and doubtless difficult to handle by birds and other creatures that seize them as food.

One of the round webs of the Epeiridæ consists of several radiating lines, varying in different species from a dozen to seventy, crossed by two spirals—an inner spiral that begins in the center and winds outward, and an outer spiral that begins at the edge of the web and winds inward. The inner spiral is made of smooth thread, like that of the rays, to which dust will not cling; the outer spiral is made of more elastic thread which, when fresh, is covered with fine drops of sticky liquid.

"In beginning a web, after the radiating threads are finished, the spider fastens them more firmly at the center and corrects the distances between them by [inserting] several short, irregular threads, and then begins the inner spiral, with the turns at first close together and then widening
... until they are as far apart as the spider can
reach with the spinnerets [resting] on one and the front feet on the next, and so goes on nearly to theoutside of the web, where it stops abruptly. The spider usually rests a moment, and then begins, sometimes at another part of the web, the outer sticky spiral.... As soon as the inner spiral is found in the way a part of it is cut out, and by the time the outer spiral is finished the inner is reduced to the small and close portion near the center.... The whole making of the web seems to be done entirely by feeling, and is done as well in the dark as in daylight. When the spider is active and the food supply good, a fresh web is made every day, the old one being torn down and thrown away."

AMERICAN GARDEN SPIDER
(Epeira vulgaris )

As a rule these orb weavers do not stay in the web in the daytime, but hide away in their nests made in some near-by but concealed place; and their egg cocoons are hidden in all sorts of places.

All of the spiders that have been considered so far belong to the division of the class that has but a single pair of lungs. A second division has been made for those having two pairs of lungs, composed of a single family, the Mygalidæ, consisting of the so-called "bird-catching" spiders and the trapdoor spiders. The great mygale of Guiana has a body sometimes two inches long, and its legs will span eight or nine inches of space. It is hairy all over, intensely black, and a terror to all small creatures, even catching small birds, according to tradition; but proof of this is wanting.

The trapdoor spiders are those of the genera Cteniza and Atypus which dig and inhabit vertical holes in the soil, lined with silk and closed at the top by a hinged stopper or "trapdoor." Several species occur in southern Europe, one of which has a second door hanging by a silken hinge half way down the shaft; and in case of trouble the spider goes below it and pushes it above its head, so that the intruder is deceived into thinking it has opened an empty nest. Cteniza californica  is the common species of our Southwest. The cover of the hole is made of dirt fastened together with threads, and is lined, like the tube, with silk, and fastened by a thick hinge of silk. The spider holds the door shut from inside. These underground homes are safe retreats for the spiders during the day, and nesting places in which their eggs are deposited and young reared; at night the spiders go forth in search of prey.