Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/55

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

One of the most remarkable records of the physical and mechanical powers of spiders is made in Silliman's Journal. The account is authenticated by the names and statements of a number of gentlemen resident in the vicinity of the occurrence, Batavia, N. Y. One evening Hon. David E. Evans found in his wine-cellar a live striped snake, nine inches long, suspended by the tail in a spider's web between two shelves. The snake hung so that its head could not reach the shelf below it by about an inch. The shelves were about two feet apart, and the lower one was just below the bottom of a cellar window, through which the snake probably passed into it. From the upper shelf there hung a web in the shape of an inverted cone, eight or ten inches in diameter at the top, and concentrated to a focus about six or eight inches from the under side of this shelf. From this focus there was a strong cord made of the multiplied threads of the spider's web, apparently as large as sewing-silk, and by this cord the snake was suspended. PSM V37 D055 A snake entangled in a spider web.jpgFig. 3.—A Snake entangled in a Spider's Web. A rude sketch of the serpent suspended in the web was made by an eye-witness, and is exactly reproduced at Fig. 3. A close examination showed that the snake's mouth was entirely closed by a number of threads wound around it. Its tail was tied in a knot so as to leave a small loop or ring, through which the cord was fastened, as seen in the figure.

Accepting the account as true, or at least probable, I would make the following inferences: First, the description of the web, although sufficiently indefinite, leaves little doubt that the snake was originally taken in a snare of a species of tube-weaver, and most probably by the medicinal spider, Tegenaria medicinalis (Hentz). The broad-sheeted web of this spider is frequently found in cellars, which are favorite haunts. It builds near windows, in the angles and along the sides of walls, having its tubular den in a crack or opening laid along an angle (Fig. 4). The sheet is usually drawn upward until its exterior margin is higher than the plane of the entrance of the tube. There is thus formed a sort of pouch within which insects often fall, and so are readily captured by the spider, who mounts guard at the door of her den. Over the door the tube frequently rises into a sort of tower.

I had often wished for an opportunity to follow up critically one of the recurring reports of the physical powers of spiders.