24 Mar 2001 3:45 pm

Yesterday I was sitting in front of my computer working on a play about death and duality, when I became aware of a strange clicking sound from under the desk. I ignored it at first, but it persisted, so I investigated, thinking there might be a problem with one of the many cords snaking into a powerboard beneath.

Much as I looked, I couldn’t discover the source of the noise. Then movement caught my eye. I noticed a daddy-long-legs in a web at the back, between the desk and the floor. It was sitting above a white vibrating bundle; a meal. At first I thought the spider was clicking and vibrating the bundle, perhaps to attract a mate. Just as I realised this was unlikely – the spider’s body was little bigger than the head of a pin – the bundle burst open.

Jerking out of it was a small beetle-like insect, which I immediately realised was rhythmically flexing its back in order to escape. The spider did nothing. The beetle dropped to the floor, free. It was still flexing however, and straight away leapt back into the web. The beetle continued struggling however, and I thought it would have no trouble escaping. But the poison set in, and its struggles slowly weakened. The spider just waited at the centre of the web.

Finally, a few minutes after the beetle moved its last, the spider clambered down to it and began weaving, elegantly drawing out invisible fibres from its rear with its long back legs and wrapping them around its victim. Gradually the beetle glistened and it was soon encased in white. How could so much silk fit in such a tiny body? The spider completed its work and moved back to the centre of the web.

Today, the broken cacoon is gone. As I type the spider is crouched over the bundle, feeding.


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