“Natural History” by E.B. White
The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.
E. B. White most famously wrote Charlotte’s Web, one of my children’s favorite books, about a very smart spider called Charlotte.
This week I watched an orb-weaver spider weaving her web in close-up, and it was remarkable.
The spinnerets are at the back of her abdomen, underneath. You can just see a silk thread stretching out to the left from the spinnerets.
She uses her back legs to pull the silk out of the spinnerets, carefully holding it up with just the right tension and angling it towards where she wants it to go.
Each time she reaches a spoke in the web, she pauses and somehow ties it in, before continuing. The tiny toes on the end of each leg hold onto the spokes as she lays down yet another perfect section of her spiral. The spiral thread is sticky, and catches her prey: you can see the sticky beads in the photo just above this text.
Here is a short video, best watched fullscreen if you can. Watch how she carefully pays out the thread as she tightrope-walks across her growing web:
All that work, and then orb weavers usually eat their web for breakfast, and spin a new one every day.
PS: Arachne was a renowned weaver, and the Greek goddess of spiders. Hence the name Arachnids for the class that includes spiders, scorpions, and ticks…