Nature Notes

Vol. V September 6, 1927 Summer Season No. 10


Have you ever peered into the deep blue of an Indian Summer sky and found it filled with silvery webs, gosmer webs, spider webs that had no possible way of getting there but still were there, millions of them. I have and I have often wondered why and how.

On the end of every silky thread is a tiny aviator, a spider aviator on a journey that may carry him thousands of miles. Such voyagers have been collected eight thousand feet in the air, have been collected in mid-ocean, have been collected in Missouri having taken-off on the upper Mackenzie!

This method of aerial navigation is aptly termed "balooning" by entomologists. Young spiders, mere specks of spiders, of a variety of species but more often of the genus Erigone are the baloonists. When the time comes to go places and do things this baby spider climbs to the tip of a tall peak in the Rockies, a tree in the forest or a fence post on the plains and spins his first web. Those are the autumn days of rising air currents. The web trails out and up, buoyed by the rising air. Presently sufficient kite is out to carry the passenger. Then little Erigone cuts loose and with millions of other little Erigones goes on a trip.


An example of animal temperance was discovered at the office of the Park Naturalist. Throughout the summer, a small colony of frogs and salamanders has been kept on exhibit. Last week, an attempt was made to amuse the amphibians with a little alcohol. The alcohol was originally intended for the preservation of spiders, but it was thought an interesting experiment to see how frogs react to strong drink. The largest frog was removed from the aquarium and offered a swig. The frog smelled of it a moment, and then, very deliberately and decisively, passed his hand in front of his nose, to shut off the smell. That it is impossible to intoxicate a frog was shown by repeating the experiment. You can lead a frog to alcohol, but you cannot make him drink.

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