The Life of the Spider eBook

Jean Henri Fabre
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 249 pages of information about The Life of the Spider.

Even the paralyzers, at least some of them, are acquainted with the immense vital importance of the nerve-centres of the neck.  We have seen the Hairy Ammophila munching the caterpillar’s brain, the Languedocian Sphex munching the brain of the Ephippigera, with the object of inducing a passing torpor.  But they simply squeeze the brain and do even this with a wise discretion; they are careful not to drive their sting into this fundamental centre of life; not one of them ever thinks of doing so, for the result would be a corpse which the larva would despise.  The Spider, on the other hand, inserts her double dirk there and there alone; any elsewhere it would inflict a wound likely to increase resistance through irritation.  She wants a venison for consumption without delay and brutally thrusts her fangs into the spot which the others so conscientiously respect.

If the instinct of these scientific murderers is not, in both cases, an inborn predisposition, inseparable from the animal, but an acquired habit, then I rack my brain in vain to understand how that habit can have been acquired.  Shroud these facts in theoretic mists as much as you will, you shall never succeed in veiling the glaring evidence which they afford of a pre-established order of things.


In the inclement season of the year, when the insect has nothing to do and retires to winter quarters, the observer profits by the mildness of the sunny nooks and grubs in the sand, lifts the stones, searches the brushwood; and often he is stirred with a pleasurable excitement, when he lights upon some ingenious work of art, discovered unawares.  Happy are the simple of heart whose ambition is satisfied with such treasure-trove!  I wish them all the joys which it has brought me and which it will continue to bring me, despite the vexations of life, which grow ever more bitter as the years follow their swift downward course.

Should the seekers rummage among the wild grasses in the osier-beds and copses, I wish them the delight of finding the wonderful object that, at this moment, lies before my eyes.  It is the work of a Spider, the nest of the Banded Epeira (Epeira fasciata, LATR.).

A Spider is not an insect, according to the rules of classification; and as such the Epeira seems out of place here. {16} A fig for systems!  It is immaterial to the student of instinct whether the animal have eight legs instead of six, or pulmonary sacs instead of air-tubes.  Besides, the Araneida belong to the group of segmented animals, organized in sections placed end to end, a structure to which the terms ‘insect’ and ‘entomology’ both refer.

Formerly, to describe this group, people said ‘articulate animals,’ an expression which possessed the drawback of not jarring on the ear and of being understood by all.  This is out of date.  Nowadays, they use the euphonious term ‘Arthropoda.’  And to think that there are men who question the existence of progress!  Infidels!  Say, ‘articulate,’ first; then roll out, ‘Arthropoda;’ and you shall see whether zoological science is not progressing!

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The Life of the Spider from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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