Towards the end of last summer, I was happy to find ladybirds (known also as ladybugs or lady beetles) at several places near the house, since they have a good reputation for devouring aphids on rose bushes. You can even purchase a stock of ladybirds, for your garden, through the Internet. Well, my ladybird colony still seems to exist at Gamone. From time to time, I come upon specimens on the window sills, whereupon I place the insect in what I imagine to be a better spot for survival... on the earth of one of my potted oleander shrubs (which I have to keep inside the house every winter).
Now, it's possible that a specialist in this field might inform me that the chances of a ladybird hibernating successfully in an indoor oleander bush are no greater than if I were to leave it where I first saw it. I guess it's the same old illusion, which has pursued me ever since I was a child, of imagining that I might save the life of a tiny bird fallen from its nest...
In any case, there are other risks for a ladybird that might wish to spend winter inside my house. This enlarged photo (of poor quality) reveals a drama that has been unfolding alongside my desk for the last twenty minutes.
When I closely inspected the battlefield with the help of a big magnifying glass (the one I use when I'm consulting archives in Grenoble or Valence), I discovered that the spider was enclosing the ladybird in a tight silk shroud. As I mentioned in my article entitled Fabulous fig story [display], spider webs are explained brilliantly in Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins. It's his fault, rather than that of the Dalai Lama, if my house is a little more cobwebby at times than it used to be.
During the time it has taken me to write the present article, the spider and its wrapped-up prey have disappeared behind my bookshelves. It's obviously one of those creatures who doesn't like its privacy being invaded through the Internet.