The spider is commonly regarded as the very symbol of cruelty. A fly or a mosquito hopelessly caught in a spiderÂ’s web will certainly consider this negative view towards a spider to be right, but human beings have little reason to think badly of this creature. To be sure, some of them annoy housewives by weaving their webs on walls and ceilings and thus spoiling the beauty of the house. It is true, also, that several species of spider have venom that is dangerous to man. On the other hand, spiders are useful to man because they kill various kinds of unwelcome insects such as mosquitoes and flies. For certain peoples the spider is an article of food. It is cooked and eaten with great delight.
The spider is commonly regarded as the very symbol of cruelty. A fly or a mosquito hopelessly caught in a spider’s web will certainly consider this negative view towards a spider to be right, but human beings have little reason to think badly of this creature. To be sure, some of them annoy housewives by weaving their webs on walls and ceilings and thus spoiling the beauty of the house. It is true, also, that several species of spider have venom that is dangerous to man. On the other hand, spiders are useful to man because they kill various kinds of unwelcome insects such as mosquitoes and flies. For certain peoples the spider is an article of food. It is cooked and eaten with great delight.
Spiders that belong to the arthropods are creatures with jointed legs. In addition to spiders, the arthropods include such familiar forms as insects, centipedes, lobsters, crabs, and shrimps. The spider is sometimes called an insect but it is definitely not an insect. Insects have six legs, spiders have eight. Insects and indeed most arthropods have antennae, or feelers, spiders have none. Most insects have wings, there is no such thing as a winged spider.
The most extraordinary thing about spiders, perhaps, is the art by which they make silk within their bodies. It is because of this special ability that they are sometimes also called Arachnids or Arachnida. Most spiders have eight eyes but there are also six-eyed, four-eyed and two-eyed spiders. A few that live in caves have so completely lost their eyesight that they are practically blind.
The spider’s eight legs are important, of course, as a means for moving from place to place. They are also useful to the spider because they are covered with extremely sensitive hairs, which make it aware of its surroundings. This is especially important because spiders can neither hear nor smell.
Generally the male spider lives for a much shorter time than the female one. It dies soon after its function as a mate and father finishes. It is generally much smaller than the female, too. Male spiders are sometimes even killed and eaten by their females when the latter are hungry and cannot find food.
Each spider begins its life as an egg. The largest spiders lay a great number of eggs, sometimes as many as two or three thousand. Smaller spiders produce fewer eggs, while some lay only six to twelve. There are more than thirty thousand different species or kinds of spider, which are divided into two major groups. One is made up of tarantulas and trap-door spiders; the other consists of the so called true spiders.
The member of the former group are older and in many ways more primitive than the true spiders. They are also much fewer in number. Giants among spiders are the hairy creatures called tarantulas by Americans and bird-eating spiders by Europeans. The largest ones, which live in the jungles of northern South America, can reach a body length of ten centimeters. Tarantulas live much longer than most other species of spider. Some of them reach an age of twenty-five or even thirty years.
Most tarantulas live on the ground, making their homes in holes that they cover heavily with lines of silk. They rarely go far from the mouths of these holes but wait patiently for their prey to come close. Insects form a large part of their food. They also kill frogs, lizards and small snakes. Some of the large species of tarantula live in trees and often feed on small birds therefore they are also called bird-eating spiders. The venom of tarantulas is very dangerous and can kill their prey in s short moment, but ordinarily it is less harmful to man. The great size and hairy body of this spider make it appear to be more dangerous, that is to man than it really is.
The Boastful Spinner (Greek Mythology)
According to Greek mythology, in a small town in Greece lived a young girl. Her name was Arachne. She was very clever at spinning and weaving. In fact, she was so clever that she became famous. Lords and ladies came from every city to see her work. This fame made Arachne very proud. She began to boast about her skill. She said that her skill was greater than the goddess Athene, who also span and move. Athene heard this boast of Arachne. She disguised herself as an old woman, and went to Arachne’s house. Athene went into Arachne’s house, and sat down. Arachne began boasting again, saying that she was a much better spinner than Athene. Athene told her gently to stop her boasting. “Boasting is very foolish”, said the goddess. “I’am telling the truth”, said Arachne. “If Athene comes here, I will prove it!” At once, Athene dropped herd disguise.
She became a beautiful goddess again. “I am Athene ! Now, prove your boast !” Arachne was not worried. She was not frightened of the goddess. She asked Athene to enter into a test of skill. The goddess agreed, but she told Arachne that she was being foolish. The two sat down. Each had a basket of wool, to spin into thread. The contest began, and Arachne worked fast and well. After many hours, Arachne finished spinning all her wool but Athene had not finished hers, so Arachne won. Athene’s face grew terrible with anger. Arachne realized how foolish it was to shame a goddess but it was too late. What terrible punishment would Athene give her? In despair, Arachne tried to kill herself. She picked up a piece of rope, and tried to hang herself but Athene stopped her. “No, you foolish girl” cried Athene, “You shall live ! but you shall spend your life hanging from a thread!” and Athene changed Arachne into a spider hanging on a thread. There she hung forever and ever.