Gateway to the Classics: Handbook of Nature Study: Invertebrates by Anna Botsford Comstock
Handbook of Nature Study: Invertebrates by  Anna Botsford Comstock


A funnel web.

Photo by J. H. Comstock.

The Funnel Web

Teacher's Story

"And dew-bright webs festoon the grass

In roadside fields at morning."

—Elizabeth Akers.

Sometimes on a dewy morning, a field will seem carpeted with these webs, each with its opening stretched wide, and each with its narrow hallway of retreat. The general shape of the web is like that of a broad funnel with a tube leading down at one side. This tube is used as a hiding place for the spider, which thus escapes the eyes of its enemies, and also keeps out of sight of any insects that might be frightened at seeing it, and so avoid the web. But the tube is no cul-de-sac; quite to the contrary, it has a rear exit, through which the spider, if frightened, escapes from attack.

The web is formed of many lines of silk crossing each other irregularly, forming a firm sheet. This sheet is held in place by many guy-lines, which fasten it to surrounding objects. If the web is touched lightly, the spider rushes forth from its lair to seize its prey; but if the web be jarred roughly, the spider speeds out through its back door and can be found only with difficulty. The smaller insects of the field, such as flies and bugs, are the chief food of this spider; it rarely attempts to seize a grown grasshopper.

The funnel-shaped webs in dark corners of cellars are made by a species which is closely related to the grass spider and has the same general habits, but which builds in these locations instead of in the grass.

Lesson CXI

The Funnel Web

Leading thought—The grass spider spins funnel-shaped webs in the grass to entrap the insects of the field. This web has a back door.

Method—Ask the pupils to observe a web on the grass with a spider within it.


1. What is the general shape of the web? Is there a tunnel leading down from it? Why is it called a funnel web?

2. Of what use is the funnel tube, and what is its shape? Where does it lead, and of what use is it to the spider? Can you corner a spider in its funnel tube? Why not?

3. How is the web made? Is there any regularity in the position of the threads that make it? How is it stayed in place?

4. Touch the web lightly, and note how the spider acts. Jar the web roughly, and what does the spider do?

5. What insects become entangled in this web?

6. Compare this web with similar funnel webs found in corners of cellars, sheds or piazzas, and see if you think the same kind of spider made both.

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