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History of Animals   


and stores its food away from the centre, but it is at the centre that
it keeps watch for its prey. Then, when any creature touches the web
and the centre is set in motion, it first ties and wraps the
creature round with threads until it renders it helpless, then lifts
it and carries it off, and, if it happens to be hungry, sucks out
the life-juices--for that is the way it feeds; but, if it be not
hungry, it first mends any damage done and then hastens again to its
quest of prey. If something comes meanwhile into the net, the spider
at first makes for the centre, and then goes back to its entangled
prey as from a fixed starting point. If any one injures a portion of
the web, it recommences weaving at sunrise or at sunset, because it is
chiefly at these periods that creatures are caught in the web. It is
the female that does the weaving and the hunting, but the male takes a
share of the booty captured.
Of the skilful spiders, weaving a substantial web, there are two
kinds, the larger and the smaller. The one has long legs and keeps
watch while swinging downwards from the web: from its large size it
cannot easily conceal itself, and so it keeps underneath, so that
its prey may not be frightened off, but may strike upon the web's
upper surface; the less awkwardly formed one lies in wait on the
top, using a little hole for a lurking-place. Spiders can spin webs
from the time of their birth, not from their interior as a superfluity
or excretion, as Democritus avers, but off their body as a kind of
tree-bark, like the creatures that shoot out with their hair, as for
instance the porcupine. The creature can attack animals larger than
itself, and enwrap them with its threads: in other words, it will
attack a small lizard, run round and draw threads about its mouth
until it closes the mouth up; then it comes up and bites it.
40

So much for the spider. Of insects, there is a genus that has no
one name that comprehends all the species, though all the species
are akin to one another in form; it consists of all the insects that
construct a honeycomb: to wit, the bee, and all the insects that
resemble it in form.
There are nine varieties, of which six are gregarious-the bee, the
king-bee, the drone bee, the annual wasp, and, furthermore, the
anthrene (or hornet), and the tenthredo (or ground-wasp); three are
solitary-the smaller siren, of a dun colour, the larger siren, black
and speckled, and the third, the largest of all, that is called the
humble-bee. Now ants never go a-hunting, but gather up what is ready
to hand; the spider makes nothing, and lays up no store, but simply
goes a-hunting for its food; while the bee--for we shall by and by
treat of the nine varieties--does not go a-hunting, but constructs its
food out of gathered material and stores it away, for honey is the
bee's food. This fact is shown by the beekeepers' attempt to remove
the combs; for the bees, when they are fumigated, and are suffering
great distress from the process, then devour the honey most
ravenously, whereas at other times they are never observed to be so
greedy, but apparently are thrifty and disposed to lay by for their
future sustenance. They have also another food which is called
bee-bread; this is scarcer than honey and has a sweet figlike taste;
this they carry as they do the wax on their legs.
Very remarkable diversity is observed in their methods of
working and their general habits. When the hive has been delivered
to them clean and empty, they build their waxen cells, bringing in the
juice of all kinds of flowers and the 'tears' or exuding sap of trees,
such as willows and elms and such others as are particularly given
to the exudation of gum. With this material they besmear the
groundwork, to provide against attacks of other creatures; the
bee-keepers call this stuff 'stop-wax'. They also with the same
material narrow by side-building the entrances to the hive if they are
too wide. They first build cells for themselves; then for the
so-called kings and the drones; for themselves they are always

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