I adore spiders. I adore anything that is honest enough to declare-through its natural predator behavior or otherwise-that it has a distinct need for preying on other species.
Oftentimes, thus, when I approach them, they make no attempts to get away. It is as if they can sense that what I feel for them is non-threatening. It applies to those little predator garden spiders as well. When I move my finger towards them, they, instead of fleeing, jump onto my hand and traverse my body, as if wanting to show some kind of strange affection.
One day, upon walking inside my aunt's abandoned garden-abandoned, because nobody who ever stays in this house is younger than 70 so they don't tend to it- I noticed a huge spider web hanging from one of the trees.
The web had the shape of a perfect hyperboloid from revolution. It was a perfect grid graph of the function 1/x rotated around the y-axis. It was approximately 20 inches in diameter, and 30 in height. It was suspended by thousands of elaborate threads and inside the top hyperboloid funnel, it hid a 1 inch spider completely invisible to any casual observer.
The spider had a beautiful white/cream color and was sitting quietly for months, waiting for prey to fall inside the web.
I was so amazed by the perfection and the beauty of the web and the work that had been done, that I immediately decided to start feeding it, so it could, in a sense, have a happier winter, since chances were, this very web would be destroyed after a couple of months.
Every single day, I'd get up and traverse the garden, in search of disabled or maimed insects. I started with flies. Regular, household, little, half an inch flies.
I maimed them with a gentle hit, but left them alive, and then I dropped them onto the web, from the top.
The spider was usually sitting inside the top funnel, and had all 8 legs connected to web threads, so it could pick up the slightest vibration from any insect that fell inside the web.
As soon as the fly hit the web deck, the spider would make exactly 4 moves. The first move was to get out of the funnel at a distance of 2 inches, and observe carefully what kind of victim caused the vibration. The second move, was to move exactly underneath the prey, below the hyperboloid surface and open a hole so it could have access to the prey. The third move was to actually, very carefully disable the prey with a single bite. The fourth move was to completely encase the victim in a cocoon, using 4 legs to hang from the web, and 4 for the encasing and knitting the cocoon.
As soon as it finished the cocooning, it followed two different actions, depending on whether it was hungry or not. If it was hungry, something which was true during the beginning of the numerous feasts that I offered, it drove its fangs through the victim, usually through a soft spot of the victim's body and for about half an hour it sucked all its juices out. Then it allowed the cocooned victim husk to drop on the floor of the garden. If it was not hungry, it left the cocooned victim hanging from a single thread, a ready made meal for a later time.
I gave it approximately 20 flies of different kinds, a large gnat, a bee, a wasp, a little scorpion, and a small roach.
It had a distinct affinity for regular small houseflies. It would eat them immediately. It also seemed to like the little green-neon shit flies as well. It also liked the larger 3/4 of an inch meat flies as well. The only fly type it did not like, was the black/blue medium type, the ones that are hairy and have a bluish tint. For some strange reason, when such a fly hit the web, it made the first move, then the second, and then it ran on another direction, as if the blue fly smelled bad, or had some sort of deterrent defense. In those cases, it opened a hole through the web, and allowed the blue fly to fall onto the ground. I never understood why.
Its behavior was the same on the gnat. Even though the gnat was huge compared to the spider, it cocooned it without difficulty in about half a minute. The gnat was still alive inside the cocoon, and was making desperate efforts to free itself.
On the bee, the wasp and the scorpion, the spider's movements were amazing. The spider never assumed a position where it was face to face with the prey's defense mechanisms. In particular, it always placed itself opposite to the prey's sting, by moving constantly while cocooning it. So in effect, it cocooned all three kinds, by first positioning the victims head on to them, either by rotating the victim, or interrupting the cocooning process and approaching the victim from a different angle.
It was particularly careful with the scorpion. Even though tiny, it first observed where its tail was, and its first move before cocooning the body, was to cocoon the scorpion's tail. For this, it completely ignored its regular web path, and instead of going underneath the victim, it went above it, climbing through the web's sustainers and approached the scorpion from where its tail was. As soon as the scorpion's tail was completely disabled and immobilized, then, it proceeded to cocoon the rest of its body, by climbing underneath it.
When I dropped the small roach inside the web, it made a mess of it as it was relatively big in comparison to what the web could sustain. The spider immediately came to the damaged place, and opened a big hole in the web and allowed the roach to fall through. It did not even think about approaching it further. It avoided all contact with it.
Then I decided to make it a little harder for my friend. After all, she was getting a free meal. I found one of those little very primitive trilobite like insects, which thrive in moisture and are usually found under big stones, which curl themselves into a ball when threatened, and dropped one onto the web.
The little victim sensed the spider approaching, and it curled itself into a little ball immediately. The spider, after taking a good look at it, grabbed the little ball with its 4 legs while hanging with the other 4 and started rotating the ball trying to find a soft place.
It was rotating the victim similar to the way a seal rotates a beach ball, furiously, for about 10 minutes, to no avail. Then it changed its course and started cocooning it. It was cocooning it for about another 10 minutes. After the little ball was completely encased, the spider started rotating it again. After about 25 minutes, it finally gave up, and opened a hole in the web, and let the insect fall through.
At night, I would visit the spider and try to figure out what she was doing, by shinning a little torch light onto the web. The spider was busy throughout the whole night, repairing laboriously all the damage made by the insects that I fed it with, during the day. She patched every single fucking interrupted thread, with a new thread, and if you were really careful, you could observe that there was a patch of new web at the place of damage, even though from afar, it looked identical to the rest of the web pattern.
I continued feeding the little spider flies, until one night, in my dreams, a huge strange man having the head of a fly, like in the original Vincent Price movie "The Fly", appeared out of nowhere and said to me with a threatening voice: "Will you fucking stop feeding us to the spider? She can feed herself, you know...She doesn't need your help!"
I considered this to be a somewhat important message, so I left my little friend alone.