Spiders–without any arachnophobia

There are not too many people who are really fond of spiders.
Spiders have a bad rap, for several reasons. For one thing, they walk funny, with a gait which we–and the movies–have associated with evil.
We hear about poisonous spiders, and there are a few, but not really very many–and certainly not here in Northern Ontario, anyway.
Most spiders, including the ones which live in our homes, survive on insects. Actually, this should make us like spiders a lot because insects cause us more problems than any other group of living things.
How many spiders are there? Well, no one knows exactly, but there are 105 families (different types of spiders) and in those families, there are more than 36,000 species or so.
Wherever you are, there are likely to be spiders of some kind close to you.
All spiders have certain things in common. For one thing, they all have 12 “appendages.” Of these, eight are legs so a walking spider always appears to be using eight legs for getting around. That accounts for that odd gait, and looks more sinister than even insects.
The other two pairs of appendages may be used for different purposes, depending on the species. One pair may be adapted for feeding. In this case, they are usually really sharp.
They pierce into the body of the prey and suck out the body fluids. They also may have poison glands so the prey can be subdued easily.
The second pair of these “non-leg” appendages may be used as sense organs to detect touch, or chemicals. And sometimes they are made into food-holders so the spider can eat comfortably.
And if that wasn’t enough, this second pair may–in the male–be used for transferring sperm into the female. They are very handy for a lot of things.
Another thing which all spiders do is they all spin silk. You have all seen those big spiderwebs out in the garden, or in the field. And most of you have come across those annoying cobwebs in the corners of your house.
Well, those are all made of a form of silk, used for trapping prey–usually flying insects. But they also make cocoons out of silk, and these are used to protect the eggs or even baby spiders.
The spiders make silk as a liquid. But as soon as it gets out of the “spinneret,” it hardens into a sticky, elastic thread.
In addition to the above uses, it can be used to make hinges (trap-door spiders), for lining nests and burrows, and as a sort of parachute so the spider can float through the air.
Size for size, spider silk is stronger than steel. In the old days (when I was a boy), a lot of fishing line was made from silk. They got it from both spiders and silkworms, and it should go up to 10-pound test line.
Almost all spiders produce some kind of poison, and this is how they subdue their prey. Don’t get all upset, though. Spiders will very seldom bite at you unless you do something quite dumb, like trying to grab one with your bare hand.
And even then, your reaction would not be much greater than a mosquito bite.
There are very few deadly spiders–and they are miles away from Northern Ontario.

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