Have you ever watched a spider spinning a web? It is one of the most fascinating sights you can see – it is a wonder, a marvel of nature. My wife had never really though about it until one morning when we woke, I was staring out of the window and she asked what I was staring at – I pointed at the tiny spider painstakingly making a beautiful silk pattern across the corner of our window frame. She laughed at me – I had been watching the creature for around 45 minutes, absolutely in awe and focussed on th beauty that was unfolding before me.
I love spiders, my wife never will! A lot of people never will, but once you can appreciate their place in nature, then I think you can grow to love them. You will find them anywhere and everywhere, they come in all sorts of colours and shapes and sizes, all are poisonous – some just affects their prey, some are poisonous to humans (deadly even). Some species of spiders grow as large as a dinner plate – the Huntsman Spider in Australia is huge. When I lived in Melbourne, they were everywhere….garages, toilet, garden…they are not poisonous, but their bite can be painful. They do make your heart stop though, when you see one!! Despite my love of spiders, I still took a breath when I saw one move. I also saw a redback (related to the black widow) and a white tail (which has a venom which can cause necrosis to the bite area). The latter are hunters and do steel bite pro not spin a web, but seek their prey (which is other spiders) out. I spotted both of these spiders at some point, and being new to the country, I tried to get close to them, absolutely fascinated until the Aussie friend I was staying with explained the specie of each to me. After that I maintained a respectful distance!!!
There are many things that make spiders beautiful – the way they move: they actually fill their legs with blood which straightens them out, the front legs reaching forwards and pulling as they empty and the back legs straightening out and pushing. Amazing. Some of the larger tarantula type spiders come in amazing colour variations – cobalt blue, red knee (gorgeous orange hairs), pink toes (they do have pink hairs around their feet). I saw a tiny lime green spider in our garden the other day, absolutely stunning.
The structure of a spider’s web is a truly amazing thing – since watching Charlottes Web as a child, I still look for messages spelled out in them! The spinning of a web actually takes up a lot of energy. There is a lot of protein in the silk used to make webs and it is not uncommon for a spider to eat its own web daily in order to get back the protein expended in spinning it. The threads of silk, though extremely thin, are very strong and sticky. They are spun very tightly, and as the prey gets stuck and struggles in the web, the spider senses the vibrations, and administers a bite to the prey. The bite contains a venom, that dissolves the inside of the prey, once it has taken effect the spider returns and literally sucks it’s prey dry. Disused webs are known as cobwebs.
As a matter of interest, the material used by spiders to spin webs is currently being analysed by scientists for content. They feel it has practical uses (due to its high tensile strength – stronger and more elastic than the same quantity of steel) in industry for the production of things such as bullet proof vests and artificial tendons.
One of the most incredible and fantastic things that I ever saw my tarantula do was shed its skin! Yes spiders shed their skins, as they grow, just like snakes and lizards do. All of those husks that look like dead spiders in your loft or garage are actually spider skins, where the spider has shed its skin and gone on to build another web. My tarantula would show no sign until I found it one day, lying upside down. I thought I had lost her, but as I watched (it took around 8 hours – and yes I did sit there watching it) out emerged a beautiful new spider. The spider pumps its body full of fluid first, to make the carapace pop off its back and the abdomen split down the side. As this happens, it begins to pump fluid into its legs to push the old skin off completely. When complete you are left with an extremely exhausted spider, but a very beautiful one. You are also left with a second complete but empty spider, i.e the skin. It will last a good length of time, and looks just like the real thing. The most impressive thing about the old skin, is the fangs, which grow in proportion to the spider.
It must also be said that during the time that they are shedding their skin, spiders are extremely vulnerable to insects that would normally be their prey – many of whom will happily sit and eat at the spider whist it is in a position of being unable to defend itself.
Love spiders or loathe them, I hope this article has given you at least an appreciation of these incredible and beautiful creatures and that next time you see one in the way you will think twice before you kill it. Let it walk onto a piece of paper and then place it outside. They are very delicate and complicated creatures, who if watched from a distance can be absolutely fascinating to observe. Just watch one going about its daily routine and then tell me i’m wrong!!!