The Life of the Spider HTML version

The Crab Spider
The Spider that showed me the exodus in all its magnificence is known officially as
Thomisus onustus, WALCK. Though the name suggest nothing to the reader’s mind, it
has the advantage, at any rate, of hurting neither the throat nor the ear, as is too often the
case with scientific nomenclature, which sounds more like sneezing than articulate
speech. Since it is the rule to dignify plants and animals with a Latin label, let us at least
respect the euphony of the classics and refrain from harsh splutters which spit out a name
instead of pronouncing it.
What will posterity do in face of the rising tide of a barbarous vocabulary which, under
the pretence of progress, stifles real knowledge? It will relegate the whole business to the
quagmire of oblivion. But what will never disappear is the popular name, which sounds
well, is picturesque and conveys some sort of information. Such is the term Crab Spider,
applied by the ancients to the group to which the Thomisus belongs, a pretty accurate
term, for, in this case, there is an evident analogy between the Spider and the Crustacean.
Like the Crab, the Thomisus walks sideways; she also has forelegs stronger than her
hind-legs. The only thing wanting to complete the resemblance is the front pair of stone
gauntlets, raised in the attitude of self-defence.
The Spider with the Crab-like figure does not know how to manufacture nets for catching
game. Without springs or snares, she lies in ambush, among the flowers, and awaits the
arrival of the quarry, which she kills by administering a scientific stab in the neck. The
Thomisus, in particular, the subject of this chapter, is passionately addicted to the pursuit
of the Domestic Bee. I have described the contests between the victim and her
executioner, at greater length, elsewhere.
The Bee appears, seeking no quarrel, intent upon plunder. She tests the flowers with her
tongue; she selects a spot that will yield a good return. Soon she is wrapped up in her
harvesting. While she is filling her baskets and distending her crop, the Thomisus, that
bandit lurking under cover of the flowers, issues from her hiding-place, creeps round
behind the bustling insect, steals up close and, with a sudden rush, nabs her in the nape of
the neck. In vain, the Bee protests and darts her sting at random; the assailant does not let
Besides, the bite in the neck is paralysing, because the cervical nerve-centres are
affected. The poor thing’s legs stiffen; and all is over in a second. The murderess now
sucks the victim’s blood at her ease and, when she has done, scornfully flings the drained
corpse aside. She hides herself once more, ready to bleed a second gleaner should the
occasion offer.
This slaughter of the Bee engaged in the hallowed delights of labour has always revolted
me. Why should there be workers to feed idlers, why sweated to keep sweaters in
luxury? Why should so many admirable lives be sacrificed to the greater prosperity of