Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/661

This page has been validated.





APRIL, 1875.




STROLLING through the woods near Ithaca, New York, one October afternoon, I saw, upon a leafless hemlock-branch, what looked like a piece of the net of some geometrical spider. Still, there was a regularity in this triangular net which did not accord with the idea of its being a fragment. A closer examination showed that its form and structure were perfect and unbroken; and moreover that, instead of hanging loosely from the twigs, it was upon the stretch, as if constantly drawn by a power at one or the other end (Fig. 1).

On touching the net to determine its degree of tension, what was my amazement to see it suddenly loosened with a snap, as if let go at one end! Nor was my wonder diminished when, a moment afterward, the net slowly regained its original condition, by a steady pulling upon a short line connected with the apex. And now I saw the puller—a little dull-colored spider, about one-eighth of an inch long—hanging from the under side of the apex-line, and hauling it in, not "hand over hand," as at first appeared, and as one would suppose by analogy with sailors' operations, but "foot over foot;" in short, with its hinder legs moved alternately so as to gradually take in that part of the line which intervened between its body and the twig to which it was attached.

When this line was all taken in, the spider was close against the twig, and its legs were drawn together, so that the whole formed a compact brown mass about the size and shape of a raisin-seed, and differing so little in appearance from the projections of the dried hemlock-twigs among which the net was built, that I felt in part excused for not having noticed the little creature before.

So much for an introduction to a spider which was then new to me, and probably is still unknown to most of my readers. In some respects its habits are unlike those of all our other spiders; and I will here relate what I have learned during five seasons, in the hope that