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by [?]

Of all the varieties of “creeping things” spiders seem to be the most universally disliked. I knew well the kind of expression I should see on the faces of my friends when I produced the box which contained my pet Tegenaria, a large black spider, long-legged and very swift, a well-known kind of house-spider.

Happily the box had a glass lid, so the inmate could be seen in comfort; and when the spider’s history was told there was always an interest created in even this poor despised creature.

When first placed in its new home the Tegenaria began spinning tunnels of white silky web in various directions across the box. They were almost as close in texture as fine gauze, and had openings here and there, so that they formed a kind of labyrinth.

The spider always lived in one corner, curled up, watching for prey, and when a blue-bottle was put in, and began buzzing, she then rushed up one tunnel and down another until she could pounce upon her prey.

The fly was quickly killed by her poison fangs, and then carried to the corner to be consumed at leisure. Unlike the habit of the garden or diadem spider, no cobweb was rolled round the victim; only the wings were cut off and the body carried away. After some months I noticed the corner seemed filled up with web and fragments of insects, and when I examined it more closely there appeared a large round ball of eggs, over which the spider had spun some web, and then had collected all the legs and wings of her prey and stuck them carelessly here and there in the web so as to conceal her nest, and make it look like the remains of an old cobweb. Over this nest she kept careful watch. One could not drive her from it; she only left it for a moment to spring upon a fly, and would return with her food immediately and resume her watchful life in the corner. At length the young spiders were hatched in countless numbers; they crept about the tunnels, and though so minute as to be mere specks, they were perfect in form, active in seeking for prey, and appeared perfectly able to take care of themselves and begin life on their own account.

I had kept the Tegenaria more than a year in confinement, and having shown such admirable motherly instincts, I thought she had earned the reward of liberty. No doubt she welcomed “the order of release”! At any rate, she scampered away under some tree-roots, and possibly resides there with her numerous family to this day.

Spiders hunt their prey in a variety of ways–some by spinning their beautiful web, with which we are all familiar; others, as the Zebra spiders, catch flies by leaping suddenly upon them, and these may often be seen on window-sills watching some coveted insect, drawing slowly nearer to the victim, till, by a well-directed spring, it can be secured. There are nearly three hundred species of spiders in this country, and nearly all spin and weave their silken threads in some way, but each in different fashions, according to their mode of life. The female spider is the spinner, and her supply is about 150 yards. When she has used that amount a few days’ rest will enable her to secrete a similar quantity.

With great pains the spider’s silk has been obtained and woven into a delicate kind of material; but as each spider only yields one grain of silk, and 450 were required to produce one yard, the process was found to be impracticable. The insect possesses silk of two colours, silver-grey and yellow; one is used for the foundation-lines of the web, and the other for the interlacing threads. The silk is drawn by the spider from its four spinnerets, and issues from them in a soft, viscid state, but it hardens by exposure to the air. If a web is examined with a magnifying-glass, it will be seen that its threads are closely studded with minute globules of gum, which is so sticky that flies caught in the web are held in this kind of birdlime until the spider is able to spring upon them.