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One of the books which inspired in The Ranger his lifelong affection for spiders was The World of Spiders by that most accessible of spider writers, W. S. Bristowe. In it is a memorable full-page illustration of the formidable Spitting Spider, Scytodes thoracica, spitting glue onto a hapless bluebottle. Bristowe, with typical modesty, ably describes this elusive British spider and the work of other arachnologists who have studied it; adding almost apologetically how he himself worked out the unique mechanism by which it emits twin streams of gum from its jaws to ensnare its prey.
It was many years of hopeful hunting later that The Ranger finally managed to spot Scytodes on the wall of a pub, and went off on a rapturous riff on the wonders of spiders to the bemusement of the young lady who he was supposed to be entertaining. However, despite a few more encounters in the intervening years it was not until nearly two decades later – this year – that The Ranger actually succeeded in witnessing that remarkable spitting weapon in action. It was in the bathroom, late at night, when a tiny moth fell prey to a lethargic Scytodes which struck with an uncharacteristically sudden jerk. What’s more, The Ranger was lucky enough to have on hand a camera and a skilled operator to capture the aftermath. It’s not quite David Attenborough but bear in mind that this was an impromptu shoot in a bathroom at midnight!