Almost everyone is repulsed at the sight of a black, hairy spider on the wall. Our natural inclination is to shudder and want to kill spiders.
Why do people hate spiders so much? If we can overcome the initial disgust, we will discover that spiders are some of the most talented creatures and most creative hunters in the world!
We all know that spiders use webs to catch their prey, but that is not the only way they hunt. Although all spiders produce silk, they don’t all use it to make the traditional web to catch bugs. Spiders actually hunt in a variety of ways, and some are absolutely amazing!
The bolas spider makes a sort of lasso out of a single line of silk thread, with a sticky ball at the end. The sticky ball is used as both a weight to help the spider use the thread more precisely and to stick to the prey to catch them. It then produces in its body special pheromones and gives off the scent of a female moth to attract male moths. When a moth flies by, the bolas spider “throws” its lasso and spins it to hit the unsuspecting moth with the sticky part, then reels it up for a delicious lunch.
The crab spider can actually change colors to match its environment. It usually lies in wait inside a flower, completely camouflaged, because not only can a crab spider match the color of the flower it is in, but it also sometimes can have a matching pattern to the flower! It is even speculated that crab spiders, among many insects, are color-blind, making this feat even more amazing. Sometimes the spider is so flawlessly blended into the scenery that bugs will land on top of it. After settling into a flower, the spider waits for a bee to land in the flower. Then it slowly wraps its legs around the bee and quickly and swiftly bites the prey, injecting venom into the bee’s head. The bee never knew what hit it.
Yet another fascinating spider is the net-casting Dinopis, a genus of the ogre-faced spider. Like the bolas and crab spiders, the Dinopis spider is an active predator and does not wait around for bugs to fly into its web. Instead, it builds an actual net, sets a trap with a bit of white matter (also produced by its body) and hangs above the bait with its net ready.
Long before the diving bell was invented (as ancient as it is), diving bell spiders were building and using them. Diving bell spiders defy logic: They live under water. They are able to breathe under water by keeping a thin layer of trapped air around their body, held there by the hairs on their legs and abdomen. They live in an air-filled diving bell when they are not hunting for small fish or other animals in the water. This diving bell is truly a miracle: It seldom needs to be refilled with new air because the substance it is made of (produced by the spider) is water repellent but still permits gas exchange between the air inside and the water, allowing oxygen to be added and carbon dioxide to be expelled.
When the diving bell spider catches prey, it brings it into the diving bell and eats it there.
Spiders may not be the most attractive animals, but their amazing and advanced hunting techniques are astonishing. These are not your average spiders—these are real predators! These spiders did not consciously choose to hunt the way that they each do. Rather, the great God who created them instilled in them instinct so they know exactly how to produce silk, swing a lasso, change colors to match the environment, make a net, or build a body suit of trapped air.
True Education, March-April 2008