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.

The others, on the contrary, those Spiders for whom the thrust of my pencil has not contrived an entrance-hall representing, to a certain extent, the natural gallery whence I dislodged them, absolutely refuse to work; and they die, notwithstanding the abundance of provisions.

The first pursue the season’s task.  They were digging when I caught them; and, carried away by the enthusiasm of their activity, they go on digging inside my cages.  Taken in by my decoy-shaft, they deepen the imprint of the pencil as though they were deepening their real vestibule.  They do not begin their labours over again; they continue them.

The second, not having this inducement, this semblance of a burrow mistaken for their own work, forsake the idea of digging and allow themselves to die, because they would have to travel back along the chain of actions and to resume the pick-strokes of the start.  To begin all over again requires reflection, a quality wherewith they are not endowed.

To the insect—­and we have seen this in many earlier cases—­what is done is done and cannot be taken up again.  The hands of a watch do not move backwards.  The insect behaves in much the same way.  Its activity urges it in one direction, ever forwards, without allowing it to retrace its steps, even when an accident makes this necessary.

What the Mason-bees and the others taught us erewhile the Lycosa now confirms in her manner.  Incapable of taking fresh pains to build herself a second dwelling, when the first is done for, she will go on the tramp, she will break into a neighbour’s house, she will run the risk of being eaten should she not prove the stronger, but she will never think of making herself a home by starting afresh.

What a strange intellect is that of the animal, a mixture of mechanical routine and subtle brain-power!  Does it contain gleams that contrive, wishes that pursue a definite object?  Following in the wake of so many others, the Lycosa warrants us in entertaining a doubt.


For three weeks and more, the Lycosa trails the bag of eggs hanging to her spinnerets.  The reader will remember the experiments described in the third chapter of this volume, particularly those with the cork ball and the thread pellet which the Spider so foolishly accepts in exchange for the real pill.  Well, this exceedingly dull-witted mother, satisfied with aught that knocks against her heels, is about to make us wonder at her devotion.

Whether she come up from her shaft to lean upon the kerb and bask in the sun, whether she suddenly retire underground in the face of danger, or whether she be roaming the country before settling down, never does she let go her precious bag, that very cumbrous burden in walking, climbing or leaping.  If, by some accident, it become detached from the fastening to which it is hung, she flings herself madly on her treasure and lovingly embraces it, ready to bite whoso would take it from her.  I myself am sometimes the thief.  I then hear the points of the poison-fangs grinding against the steel of my pincers, which tug in one direction while the Lycosa tugs in the other.  But let us leave the animal alone:  with a quick touch of the spinnerets, the pill is restored to its place; and the Spider strides off, still menacing.

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