DANCING TO ATTRACT A WIFE: THE SPIDER’S COURTSHIP

A MALE jumping spider dances before the favoured female. He displays his charms—which consist of tufts of hair and coloured patches—to the best advantage. He waves to her with his front legs, and circles round her; she watches him with the greatest interest and if his advances are acceptable she too joins in the revels. The display of decorations by the male infers good eyesight in the female; where the sight is poor, as in spiders which build webs, no display occurs but the male enters the female’s web and makes it vibrate. She knows it is not a fly for she waits for him to approach. As soon as he is within reach he tickles her with his front legs and the conquest is made. This behaviour is seen in house spiders. In others, the male signals to the female by pulling on the threads of the web and she replies in the same way—their courting is done by wire, so to speak.

The eggs are laid in a cocoon which is eventually fixed to a wall or tree. In many cases the mother is dead by the time the young are hatched; in others she helps the young out from the cocoon. Some spiders play a definitely parental role and guard the cocoon and young. There is an English spider which carries her cocoon about with her. Most of us have seen wolf-spiders in the fields carrying their cocoons on their backs. The cocoons are really attached to the spider’s spinnerets. The young hatch and are carried on and may completely cover the mother’s back. Newly hatched spiders can spin no webs and are often without eyes.

Some spiders make their nests beneath the ground with an entrance leading to the outside world; this entrance is guarded by a door to keep out undesirables. These are the so-called trap-door spiders. Related to the trap-door spiders are the large bird-eating spiders of South America, etc., whose bodies may reach nearly four inches in length. Insects are their usual food, but they have been known to tackle humming birds with success. Their bodies are covered with stiff hairs and it is related how these may break off when handled and cause irritation by getting into the creases of the human skin. A number of these big spiders can usually be seen in the Insect House at the London Zoo; they are not infrequently found in bunches of bananas at the English docks. The writer has collected them in South America, but the cooler climate outside the tropics brings on a torpid state in which

they seldom feed, and are therefore difficult to keep in captivity without very special care.

In heaps of manure, cracks in woodwork and the like, a widely distributed and interesting order of small spiders is found. These are the False Scorpions which are very retiring in habit and in consequence are little known. They have huge palps or foot-feelers for attack and these give them a scorpion-like look. The abdomen is ringed. They live on insects and mites. The eggs and early young are carried by the mother. The adults build round silken nests to shelter in during the winter.

The Harvesters or Harvestmen are widely distributed spider-like animals with very long legs; they are frequently seen in the fields. They do not spin webs, since they pursue insects, spiders and mites. They differ from true spiders in their very compact, globular bodies. The males may be seen fighting for the possession of females at the mating season. The eggs are laid under stones and in holes in the ground; the young are like their parents.

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