The Hungry Little Spider: A Children’s Book by Barry Delmar Ph.D, Head of the Entomology Department at Johns Hopkins University, by Simon Johnston
There once was a little spider, and his name was Barry. He was the cutest little spider of them all. One evening Barry the little spider woke up from a good day’s sleep, because most spiders run on a circadian rhythm in which they are mostly active at night. With one of his eight arms he rubbed the sleep out of his six to eight eyes depending on what subspecies of spider he is, and stretched out his water-repellent hairs, which trap a thin layer of air around his body so he doesn’t get wet.
“I often gorge when prey is abundant, so I can fast for long periods of time. But it has been well over a week since my last meal,” thought Barry, the cute little spider. “I am very hungry.” He climbed down from the corner of the house that is located nearest to his web, because, contrary to how they are represented in the media, spiders do not live on their webs.
“Boy, I can’t wait to eat,” said the little spider, not with words, but by using vibrations propagating through a substrate to communicate with conspecifics, predators or prey, because spiders obviously do not talk.
He walked and walked from the bedroom where he slept to the kitchen. “Boy this walk is very long, considering I am a common North American house spider, and I am only a couple of millimeters in length, so what seems like a short walk for a human is much longer for me,” thought Barry.
Barry arrived in the kitchen. He was very hungry. So using his acute sense of smell, he sniffed, and noticed a concentration of sugary-smelling air and followed it. He reached the object. “It’s a carrot!” thought Barry. Using the chemosensitive hairs on his legs, Barry felt the carrot. “This prey is not consumable, considering vegetarian diets are very atypical in spiders, and up until a recent discovery of a jumping spider which feeds mostly on special fruiting bodies on acacia trees, we were thought to be solely carnivorous,” decided Barry.
Barry kept walking. “Not only am I hungry, I am thirsty now as well,” he thought. Just then he spotted something using his six to eight eyes depending on what subspecies of spider he is. It was a collection of small water droplets. “Happy day! Droplets of water that I need to drink, because unlike other insects I do not hydrate from the food that I consume in my diet,” thought Barry gleefully. He started slurping up the water droplets, thinking the whole time, “This water sure would taste great if I had the capability to taste which I do not because I am a spider, and spiders do not have the capability to taste.”
Barry was happy that he had found water, but he was still hungry. Then he saw something coming into the kitchen. It was a human! “Wow, my chemosensitive hairs are firing neurons to my simple brain! The information I am processing is letting me know that this person would be very tasty!” Barry said.
Barry started to make a web to capture his prey. Just then the human took a large cup, and put it over Barry! “Oh no! Everything would be dark right now, but I have poor eyesight, which is ironic considering I have six to eight eyes depending on what subspecies of spider I am,” thought Barry.
“I should start emitting pheromones to warn whatever predator this is to stay away,” said Barry nervously.
Just as Barry started to emit pheromones the cup was lifted up, and he was outside!
He scurried away to find a small, warm, moist corner to curl up in until he deemed it safe to hunt again. It was then that he saw his friend, Ricky the fly. “Maybe you can help me, Ricky,” said Barry.
“But Barry, I am only ten days old,” responded Ricky the fly.
“Technically you are much older, and wiser, than me, because your average lifespan is 15 to 30 days, depending on the temperature you live in, so you have, in a sense, lived longer than a spider like me who lives for two years in the wild, and up to 25 years in captivity!” exclaimed Barry.
“That is a proven and scientifically sound answer, Barry,” said Ricky the fly. “What do you need help with?”
“I’m very hungry, but can’t find any food. What should I do?” Barry asked.
“As a functioning member of an ecosystem, you need to work for your meals in order to stay on top of the evolutionary cycle that exists in even the most minute species,” said Ricky the funny fly.
Just then, Barry had an idea. He found a small gap between a tree and a fence. Then, using the glans located on the bottom of his abdomen, commonly referred to as spinnerets, he wove a web.
“What is that?” asked Ricky the fly.
“It is an intricate webbing made of proteinaceous spider silk,” answered Barry. “Why don’t you hop in?”
Barry waited, and just as he hoped, Ricky hopped right onto his web. Barry ran over to Ricky, and quickly wrapped him up.
“I have found something to eat after all!” said Barry.
Ricky thrashed his legs, and batted his wings in delight that his friend had found a meal. Barry then inserted his fangs into his friend Ricky.
“Don’t worry, friend, I just injected you with a poison consisting of protein, amines, and polypeptides,” said Barry with glee. “You will be paralyzed, and in a couple of hours, dead!” The two friends shared a laugh.
After a couple of hours, Barry returned to his web. “Looks like Ricky’s dead! I should start regurgitating digestive fluids in order to consume him!” shouted Barry excitedly. Barry digested Ricky and ate him. And that is how Barry the hungry little spider became Barry the happy little spider.
Simon Johnston, like everyone else in the world, is a New York City-based writer and comedian. You can read his stuff on Funny or Die, and also his Twitter or website, if you’re into that kind of thing, you creep.
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