The all-time favorite CHARLOTTE'S WEB ends in the springtime, as tiny spiderlings emerge from Charlotte's egg case. The gray orb spider called her egg sac her magnum opus, Latin for "great work." Charlotte told her friend Wilbur the pig that the egg sac held 514 eggs and would hatch in the spring. Her friend Wilbur the pig patiently waited, and this was his reward:
Wilbur was surprised and amazed when they hatched out, and even more surprised and amazed a few days later when they did something he'd never imagined they would do. One spring day, a warm draft of rising air blew softly through the barn cellar. The baby spiders felt the warm updraft and one of Charlotte's children climbed to the top of the fence. Wilbur was surprised to see the baby spider stand on its head and point its spinnerets in the air. The spider let loose a cloud of fine silk that formed a balloon. Wilbur was frantic when he saw the spider let go of the fence, float into the air, and sail through the door with a "good-bye." At last one little spider took time enough to stop and talk to Wilbur before making its balloon. It was time for the baby spiders to set forth as aeronauts. They were going into the world on a warm updraft to make webs for themselves. The air was soon filled with tiny balloons, each balloon carrying a spider. That's our summary, but you'll enjoy reading the whole chapter. You'll find the ballooning spiders in Chapter XXII: A Warm Wind.
Floating on a Spring Breeze
CHARLOTTE'S WEB is fiction, but baby spiders really do balloon through the air, and they do it most in spring! Most baby spiders hatch when the weather gets warm, but a few hatch from their eggs during fall or winter. It's hard to notice that they've hatched, though, because they stay quietly inside the egg sac until spring. The first thing most kinds of spiderlings do after emerging from the egg sac is to spin a dragline and balloon away!
Baby spiders have no wings, but can fly as high as the highest-flying insects and birds! In fact, ballooning spiders often hit airplane windshields. How can a spider, with no wings, possibly get this high in the air? How can baby spiders with no ability to fly on their own power get as high in the air as flying airplanes? You'll find out:
surprised to see the baby spider stand on its head and point its spinnerets
in the air. Spinnerets are organs that look like short fingers attached
to the rear of a spider's abdomen. Most spiders have six spinnerets, but
some have four or two. The spinneret's tip is called the spinning field.
Each spinning field is covered by up to a hundred spinning tubes. Liquid
silk flows out of these tubes to the finger-like parts of the spinneret.
As the silk dries, the spinnerets weave the thin silk strands together
into thin or thick threads, or even wide bands. This is called spinning.
Spiders can control the spinnerets to make thick or thin strands of silk.
And different kinds of spiders may spin different colors of silk. Most
orb weavers use colored silk for their egg cases.
Webs aren't the only way spiders trap food. Hunting spiders don't build webs at all. Why do you suppose spiders that use webs to catch food have poorer vision than spiders who get their food in other ways? Read more here:
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