Araneae (spiders), continued

On this page, Spider courtship mating and behaviour, how spiders eat, Ballooning, Spiders and gardens, Amazing spider snippets, Featured species list , a whole lot more

Spiders and gardens

Amazing spider snippets

Spider courtship, mating and behaviour

Courtship of the female by the male can be elaborate, but much of this is to make sure that the female can distinguish him from a juicy meal!

Before mating the male spider deposits a drop of sperm on the surface of a small sheet of silk, and then transfers this to his palps (see the photograph below) which pick it up by capillary action. The male's palps fit into the female's epigyne like a key fits into a lock. This prohibits mating with the wrong species. Once a male has loaded his palps with sperm he is ready to go off courting.

In species which spin webs the male will pluck and vibrate the strands of the web to attract the female's attention. All spiders are very sensitive to vibrations. He may hang around the web for days before making his move.

Some species wait until the female is occupied with prey; others until she is about to moult. Some supply a prey item as a gift. In species with good eyesight such as the Lycosidae and Salticidae, the males signals his intentions with his legs and palps.

Tegenaria duellica mature male showing palps, chelicera, fang and eyes

The mature male above was found wandering across my floor in search of a female. For this species this is common behaviour at the end of summer and during the autumn.

Copulation can last just a few seconds or many hours depending on the species. A few females will catch and eat the male after mating, but in most cases the male is not eaten, and will go off to try to find another female to mate with.

In some species the mated pair will stay together for a while, but mature males do not live nearly as long as mature females. It is then, once the male has died of old age, that the female will eat the male.

The female stores the sperm until she needs it, and this can be for as long as 18 months if conditions are unfavourable. However she will have to use the sperm before she moults.

Spider ballooning

Ballooning is done by small spiders and spiderlings. In the early summer it is done mainly by young spiders dispersing to a new area, and later in the year it is mainly adult money spiders that balloon.

To balloon the spider climbs as high up whatever structure it is on, turns to face the wind, and releases a few strands of silk. Then it lifts its body up holding on to the surface with just two front legs, and waits till the air currents carries it up.

Ballooning takes place when there is a very light breeze. Of course the spider will have no control over direction or landing place, and so many spiders perish as a result of ballooning.

Spiders can balloon to over 3000 m in height and still survive. They can travel great distances, and are often early colonizers after fire, disaster, etc.

How spiders eat food

Spiders cannot eat solid food. They inject or pour (depending on family) digestive juices into or onto their prey. These juices liquefy the prey with is sucked up leaving only the hard parts. They can eat quite a lot in one go, as the abdomen can expand. Also many species can go a long time without any food at all.

Old proverb

If you wish to live and thrive,
Let a spider run alive.

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