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Funnelweb Spider

A picture of a Funnelweb Spider (click to enlarge)
click to enlarge
Photo by:
E. R. Degginger/Bruce Coleman Inc.
Funnelweb Spider, any of a group of spiders that make funnel-shaped webs, which they use to trap insects. They are among the most abundant and conspicuous spiders in temperate grassland areas. They are also known as grass spiders. Worldwide there are about 700 known species of funnelweb spiders. Unlike most other spiders, they are most abundant and diverse outside of the tropics, with more than 400 species in North America.

The body of a funnelweb spider is typically long and roughly oval in shape. The legs are long, slender, and bristly, and the eyes are small and occur in two horizontal rows of four. A pair of spinnerets, used to make the spider's web, protrudes from the tip of the abdomen. The backs of many funnelweb spiders are distinctively striped or patterned in browns or grays.

A picture of the Web of the Funnel Spider (click to enlarge)
click to enlarge
Photo by:
John Serrao/Photo Researchers, Inc.
Most funnelweb spiders are retiring and rarely stray from their webs, unlike their free-roaming relatives, the wolf spiders. The funnel-shaped web is composed entirely of dry silk, without sticky threads. It has one or more horizontal sheets of finely-meshed webbing in front called the sheet web, from which a tangle of lines may extend upward, attached to the surrounding vegetation. At the back of the web is a small funnel-shaped opening that forms a retreat in which the spider typically rests. Flying or jumping insects may view the sheet web as a suitable place to land, or they may accidentally bump into the vertical lines and drop onto the sheet. Because of the slippery, entangling lines, most insects have difficulty moving across the web, but the spider can move across easily. While sitting in its retreat, the spider detects the vibrations in its web caused by the trapped insect and runs rapidly to the struggling prey, biting it repeatedly. After wrapping it with silk, the spider typically drags its prey into the funnel retreat for feeding.

As the spider grows throughout the spring and summer, it spins nearly constantly to repair its nest. The result is an increasingly large and complex web. Mating occurs in late summer or early fall. The female lays her eggs in a disc-shaped sac that she typically attaches to the underside of rocks, leaf litter or a piece of loose tree bark, and covers it with a layer of silk mesh. The female often remains with her egg sac for a short while, but soon dies. Most funnelweb spiders live only a single year.

The cellar spider, a familiar funnelweb spider, is common in houses in many temperate and tropical areas. In Europe and America during the 17th and 18th centuries, the cobwebs from this spider were frequently used as a bandage to stop bleeding.

Scientific classification: The funnelweb spiders are classified in the spider family Agelenidae. The cellar spider is Tegenaria domestica.
 

 
 
 
 
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"Funnelweb Spider," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2007
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.