RE: How Spiders Make Love

From: Sandy Petersen (
Date: Tue 13 Jan 1998 - 01:21:28 EET

<<No, I don't know how spiders make love. Must be fascinating, though.>>
        As one of the digest's foremost arachnophiles, I feel bound to

answer this question. Grab the nearest spider and take a close look.
You'll see that in addition to its 8 legs, it has two little leg-like
organs sticking out of its face. These are its pedipalps. In a male
spider, the tip of the pedipalp is swollen and bulgy (this is the
easiest & fastest way to sex a spider, should you have the need). This
swelling conceals a highly complicated system of pumps & tubes & locking
        When a male spider feels the "need to breed", he spins a little
tiny web (smaller than his body). Then, he squirts out a mass of semen
onto the web (like most critters, his sperm & semen are formed in his
abdomen, and he squirts out the stuff from a little porthole beneath his
abdomen). He then turns around and uses his pedipalps to slurp up the
semen into their hollow interiors, where the sperm will be stored for
quite some time.
        Next step -- the male spider goes looking for a nubile female.
Problems arise now. Here's why:
        a) female spiders are very near-sighted.
        b) female spiders are highly aggressive predators, who normally
feed on other arthropods.
        c) male spiders are "other arthropods".
        d) with only a few trivial exceptions, male spiders are smaller
and weaker than their potential mates.
So, the male has to be _very_ careful when approaching a female. Male
spiders practice an amazing number of tricks & subterfuges when
approaching females in attempts to not be eaten. Jumping spiders have
brightly-colored, even metallic, palps & fangs that they display in a
sort of dance to dissuade the female hunger. Crab spiders engage in
bondage -- they tie up their females with silk before mating. Some pluck
the female's web threads in a special code. Some males even capture a
fly, and offer the fly to the female -- while the female's eating the
fly, the male gets to have his way with her. Some males, if they can't
find a fly, will instead make a "fake fly" in a tangled mass of silk.
The female, fooled by the package, lets the male mate while she picks
through the silk, looking for the fly. (And yes, when she doesn't find
the fly, she's angry and the male has to beat a fast retreat.) Male
tarantulas give the female a massage that seems to hypnotize her.
        Anyway, using whatever technique seems suitable, the female is
made docile. Facing the female head on, the male then takes his palps
and inserts them into the females genital opening, which is on the
abdomen's underside, near the front. Using alternating pumping motions,
he then pumps his sperm into her. It looks a lot like fist-f**king.
During the process, the female seems very calm and relaxed, almost
docile. Presumably she enjoys it.
        The instant he finishes, he has to leap away with alacrity, as
many female spiders will now consider him no more than a fine source of
protein. At one time it was believed that the Black Widow invariably
killed her mate. It was then decided that she only killed her mate under
unnatural laboratory conditions. Research has now been determined that
she only kills her mate when she is _hungry_. Many male black widows
will live in the female's web for several weeks after mating. Of course,
eventually she starts feeling peckish and ...
        Aspects of this mating system have got to have useful
applications to someone in Glorantha. One obvious point is that female
trolls are highly carnivorous, too. Perhaps males tend to bring gifts to

appease potential mates.

Sandy Petersen


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