October 30, 2007

Wasp vs. Spider!

I've always been scared of wasps. We've had this little hate-hate thing going for a long long time, the wasps and I. Both of us have scored some pretty significant victories, though they drew first blood with an organised ambush in a dark, abandoned outhouse. Of course, with the advent of the electric mosquito bat, I managed to get in a few as well. So, we have history. Perhaps they sense the negative vibes, or perhaps I just get stuck in stupid situations with wasps, but they are the species responsible for the maximum number of physical attacks upon my person. Cows come second.
Having run out of imaginative ways to make my life miserable, I suppose the wasps decided to try the old classics out again and see how they worked out. I'm talking about Killer Wasp Attack at the Outhouse II. All I wanted was to sit comfortably in my loo, read a book and be left alone in peace. Suddenly, a familiar hideous buzzing noise assaults my ears. Memories of fiery burning pain and laughing schoolchildren assault my solace, as I look up and dive, just in time to miss a careening carrier of venomous malice. The little bastard must have flown in through the crack in the window. He settled on the mirror and proceeded to preen his antennae. The entire time, I watched him with bated breath, fingers slowly reaching for the matchbox and deodorant spray. Suddenly I realised that he had stopped preening, and a strange creeping, tingling feeling began to crawl up the base of my spine. I tried to identify the source of this feeling, and realised that it stemmed from the fact that the bastard was actually looking at me. I had the distinct impression that the beady little compound eyes were staring into mine, daring me to make a move. I dismissed the thought, and nonchalantly reached for the deodorant. Scarcely after my fingers closed over it, the horrible buzzing began anew and I was treated to the sight of a yellow buzzing blur hurtling in my general direction. At this point, I abandoned all propriety and wildly sprayed deodorant into the air, forgetting in my joyous abandon that this sort of thing only works if you have a match. Enfragranced and incensed, the yellow bastard circled around for a second run and froze in its tracks. Or at least that was how it looked at the time. Within a second, the wasp began to struggle furiously in what appeared to be the middle of the air against nothing. Nothing, on closer inspection, turned out to be the web of a daddy longlegs.
I must interrupt the narrative at this point to point out that spiders are one of my favourite creatures. Most people are repulsed by their freakishly fast, yet jerky movements but I have spent many an evening entranced by them, staring up at my cobwebbed ceiling, watching them build their webs, slowly but industriously, and ever so beautifully.
At any rate, the wasp was stuck, and stuck fast. It had landed itself in the web of one of the largest spiders that I had allowed to take up residence in my humble abode, and was going nowhere fast. The buzzing increased in volume and intensity, but resulted ultimately in the yellow bastard entwining itself deeper When I was sure that the yellow bastard was not, in fact, going to break through and continue to wreak havoc, I stepped up for a closer look. A spiderweb is constructed in such a manner that if any insect is trapped within it, no matter where our friend the spider is, (s)he feels the vibrations and comes running to investigate. My friend had already arrived by the time I stepped up, and was busy with the important work of securing her catch. This was a truly fascinating process, and by tilting my head at the right angle to the light, I was able to observe how she would squirt webbing out of the sac at the base of her abdomen, apply a rear leg to the webbing, and then stick it to the wasp, then proceeding by an intricate working of her legs, to wrap it further in its own doom. When the wasp continued to struggle, and by dint of its final efforts, strain at the very structure of the web itself, the spider calmly continued to attach webbing to the creature, and then crawl off up the web, mooring it to the walls of the bathroom. The wasp continued to struggle and the spider continued to build, always careful to avoid the vicious stinger that flickered in and out of view at the base of its abdomen. In the meantime, I managed to take some photographs. I felt faintly voyeuristic, somehow as if I were intruding on a ritual I had no part of. I continued anyway. The wasp finally ceased to struggle, as if in resignation to its fate. At this point, the spider attached itself to its defeated opponent and proceeded to consume it.

Now, in case you are wondering, many spiders do not actually eat their prey preferring instead to inject their venom into the innards of the unfortunate, wait for said innards to turn into a mass of mushy goo and then suck at said goo like a slurpee. I watched, fascinated, for some more time, then allowed the spider to feed in peace. The next morning, the wasp was little more than a dessicated husk. I decided to allow the spider to keep its trophy a little longer.