The Life of the Spider HTML version

The Banded Epeira
In the inclement season of the year, when the insect has nothing to do and retires to
winter quarters, the observer profits by the mildness of the sunny nooks and grubs in the
sand, lifts the stones, searches the brushwood; and often he is stirred with a pleasurable
excitement, when he lights upon some ingenious work of art, discovered unawares.
Happy are the simple of heart whose ambition is satisfied with such treasure-trove! I
wish them all the joys which it has brought me and which it will continue to bring me,
despite the vexations of life, which grow ever more bitter as the years follow their swift
downward course.
Should the seekers rummage among the wild grasses in the osier-beds and copses, I wish
them the delight of finding the wonderful object that, at this moment, lies before my
eyes. It is the work of a Spider, the nest of the Banded Epeira (Epeira fasciata, LATR.).
A Spider is not an insect, according to the rules of classification; and as such the Epeira
seems out of place here. {16} A fig for systems! It is immaterial to the student of
instinct whether the animal have eight legs instead of six, or pulmonary sacs instead of
air-tubes. Besides, the Araneida belong to the group of segmented animals, organized in
sections placed end to end, a structure to which the terms ‘insect’ and ‘entomology’ both
Formerly, to describe this group, people said ‘articulate animals,’ an expression which
possessed the drawback of not jarring on the ear and of being understood by all. This is
out of date. Nowadays, they use the euphonious term ‘Arthropoda.’ And to think that
there are men who question the existence of progress! Infidels! Say, ‘articulate,’ first;
then roll out, ‘Arthropoda;’ and you shall see whether zoological science is not
In bearing and colouring, Epeira fasciata is the handsomest of the Spiders of the South.
On her fat belly, a mighty silk-warehouse nearly as large as a hazel-nut, are alternate
yellow, black and silver sashes, to which she owes her epithet of Banded. Around that
portly abdomen, the eight long legs, with their dark- and pale-brown rings, radiate like
Any small prey suits her; and, as long as she can find supports for her web, she settles
wherever the Locust hops, wherever the Fly hovers, wherever the Dragon-fly dances or
the Butterfly flits. As a rule, because of the greater abundance of game, she spreads her
toils across some brooklet, from bank to bank among the rushes. She also stretches them,
but not assiduously, in the thickets of evergreen oak, on the slopes with the scrubby
greenswards, dear to the Grasshoppers.
Her hunting-weapon is a large upright web, whose outer boundary, which varies
according to the disposition of the ground, is fastened to the neighbouring branches by a
number of moorings. The structure is that adopted by the other weaving Spiders.