Monday, December 17, 2007

9th ant doesn't count

Friday morning, a small ant crawled across my desk. Without much thinking, I reached out to crush it with my finger. It was only wounded. Nature has made ant exoskeletons extra hard. I tried to crush it again, to quickly end its misery, but wasn't sure I succeeded. I considered what to do, then walked down the hall and threw it into the spider web. Seeing it suspended there, I felt guilty. It hadn't blundered into the web. It wasn't its fault. I had interfered with nature. On the other hand, an ant that walks across my desk in the middle of the day doesn't have the survival skills necessary to make it to the next generation.

The dormant spider woke and made a speedy L to the ant. She quickly wrapped it up. I considered that this death was at least more useful than in the wastebasket or down the drain.

Having ruined the scientific validity of my observation of the spider, I wondered if by feeding it I had invoked the stray-cat rule and made it my pet. I decided it was more like a bird feeder in the yard--the birds and squirrels remain wild.

This morning, there were still only eight ant carcasses in the corner. As if the spider knew that we cheated; it hadn't caught that ninth ant on its own. It was just a bonus, so it ate it up and didn't save any.

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