A Glimpse Into Spiders

There are more than 30,000 kinds of spiders. Some are smaller than the head of a pin but some are larger than a person’s hand. Spiders are not insects, they are classified as arachnids. Spiders have eight legs but ants, bees, beetles and other insects have only six legs. Arachnids include daddy long legs, scorpions, mites and ticks. Spiders are most commonly brown, grey or black. A spider has no bones but its tough skin serves as a protective outer skeleton.

A spider’s body consists of the cephalothorax and the abdomen. Each of these sections has parts attached to it called appendages. A spider’s eyes are on top and near the front of its head. Different species have different numbers of eyes and the size and position also varies. Most species have eight eyes, arranged in two rows of four each. Hunting spiders have good eyesight at short distances and their eyesight allows them to form images of their prey and mates. Web-building spiders have poor eyesight and their eyes are used for detecting changes in light.

Below the spider’s eyes is its mouth opening. Spiders eat only liquids because they do not have chewing mouth parts. Around the mouth are various appendages which form a short ‘straw’ through which the spider sucks the body fluid of its victim. The spider can only eat some of the solid tissue of its prey by predigesting it. The spider sprays digestive juices on the tissue and the powerful juices dissolve the tissue.

A spider has four pairs of legs, which are attached to its cephalothorax and each leg has seven segments. In most kinds of spiders, the tip of the last segment has two or three claws. Surrounding the claws is a pad of hairs called the scopula. The scopula sticks to smooth surfaces and helps the spider walk on ceilings and walls. Spider’s legs are impervious to pesticides, thus making them difficult to control.

Each species of spider lives a different life. Many kinds of spiders live for only a year. Large wolf spiders live several years and some female tarantulas have lived for up to 20 years in captivity. Spiders become adults at different times of the year. Some mature in the fall and then mate and die during the winter. Others live through the winter, mate in the spring, and then die.

As soon as a male spider matures, it seeks a mate. The female spider may mistake the male for prey and eat him, but most male spiders perform courtship activities that identify themselves and attract the females. After mating, the female will lay her eggs several weeks or even months later. The number of eggs that a spider lays at one time varies with the size of the spider. An average sized female lays about 100 eggs but some of the largest spiders lay more than 2,000 eggs. The female wolf spider attaches the egg sac to her spinnerets, and drags it behind her and then carries the spider lings on her back after they have hatched. The most common types of spiders in this area are black widow spiders, wolf spiders, jumping spiders, garden spiders, crab spiders, funnel-web spiders and hobo spiders.

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