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.

To my intense disappointment, the Silky Epeira does not either indulge in a tumultuous and dashing exodus.  Let me remind you of her handiwork, the handsomest of the maternal wallets, next to the Banded Epeira’s.  It is an obtuse conoid, closed with a star-shaped disk.  It is made of a stouter and especially a thicker material than the Banded Epeira’s balloon, for which reason a spontaneous rupture becomes more necessary than ever.

This rupture is effected at the sides of the bag, not far from the edge of the lid.  Like the ripping of the balloon, it requires the rough aid of the heat of July.  Its mechanism also seems to work by the expansion of the heated air, for we again see a partial emission of the silky floss that fills the pouch.

The exit of the family is performed in a single group and, this time, before the moult, perhaps for lack of the space necessary for the delicate casting of the skin.  The conical bag falls far short of the balloon in size; those packed within would sprain their legs in extracting them from their sheaths.  The family, therefore, emerges in a body and settles on a sprig hard by.

This is a temporary camping-ground, where, spinning in unison, the youngsters soon weave an open-work tent, the abode of a week, or thereabouts.  The moult is effected in this lounge of intersecting threads.  The sloughed skins form a heap at the bottom of the dwelling; on the trapezes above, the flaylings take exercise and gain strength and vigour.  Finally, when maturity is attained, they set out, now these, now those, little by little and always cautiously.  There are no audacious flights on the thready airship; the journey is accomplished by modest stages.

Hanging to her thread, the Spider lets herself drop straight down, to a depth of nine or ten inches.  A breath of air sets her swinging like a pendulum, sometimes drives her against a neighbouring branch.  This is a step towards the dispersal.  At the point reached, there is a fresh fall, followed by a fresh pendulous swing that lands her a little farther afield.  Thus, in short tacks, for the thread is never very long, does the Spiderling go about, seeing the country, until she comes to a place that suits her.  Should the wind blow at all hard, the voyage is cut short:  the cable of the pendulum breaks and the beastie is carried for some distance on its cord.

To sum up, although, on the whole, the tactics of the exodus remain much the same, the two spinstresses of my region best-versed in the art of weaving mothers’ wallets failed to come up to my expectations.  I went to the trouble of rearing them, with disappointing results.  Where shall I find again the wonderful spectacle which the Cross Spider offered me by chance?  I shall find it—­in an even more striking fashion—­among humbler Spiders, whom I had neglected to observe.


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