Insights July 2012

Strategy Lesson for My Grandson. And Me

Anton Hart

Yesterday my grandson witnessed strategy at work. So did a few others enjoying a beautiful weekend day. Seemingly transfixing us for long minutes, it all happened in less than 20 seconds. Like this. . .

The setting could be anywhere: our decks and porches, our yards, balconies or nearby parks. There we find spider webs. We generally swat them away, ignore them or pass them by. Sometimes we forget that in each case there is a spider nearby. And therein lies this story. 

It is no surprise to anyone that the spider is totally focused and dedicated to the task at hand -- looking for its next meal. The process is strategic and global. And, yes, deceptive and innate. (We, on the other hand, learn these things from our grandparents, parents, teachers, siblings, friends and mentors.) The spider scouts its location using criteria that come as second nature. First it finds a multilane flyway for any number of bugs or nutritious creepy crawlers. It then designs and builds a surefire death trap to foil its preys' thoughtless routines. And nature takes it course . . .

Built with speed and skill, the silk trap guarantees the spider a meal. It is not only effective but also beautiful, symmetrical, tough and elaborate. If only we could identify our ticket so clearly and respond so exquisitely and effectively. Having identified its purpose, scouted its environment for bugs and flying things, it designs and builds a trap no one sees or expects. Once complete, the spider is out of sight and out of mind. Or is it?

Back to the yard, where the family chit chat is interrupted when our attention is diverted to a meticulously built web – literally unseen until the moment a black wasp was abruptly stopped in flight. Caught! A large menacing bug. This is no small catch, no irritating little bug. This is a trophy; a major meal with bragging rights for any spider. The web, it turns out, was only an arm’s length away and we enjoyed front row advantage to cheer on the spider -- nowhere to be seen. Yet. A strategic move, no doubt, allowing the enemy to struggle and exhaust itself. And seemingly it did as it valiantly tried to come free from this tacky silk snare. We were transfixed waiting for the spider to appear and collect its bounty – probably immobilizing it with venom; a form of chemical warfare in the animal kingdom.

We were not denied a spectacle. From seemingly nowhere the little spinner arrived. We were simply amazed. Stuck in this large web was a lithe and large menacing black wasp about to be collected by a mighty, tiny -- no, minuscule -- spider. It was David vs. Goliath. We were mesmerized. The spider was on the edge as the wasp struggled valiantly once more and then seemingly resigned to being trapped for the pleasure of its captor ready to inject its venom and enjoy its booty. Strategy trumps brawn. This was nature on display. Story books are made of this. And then . . .

The tiny spider must have been delighted to be the holder of such a monstrous meal -- enough to feed its large family possibly tucked away under the deck. And then and there it happened. The tiny spider moved in, pausing only once to revel in its success. Instantly it seemed to jump onto its prey. But in reality and within the blink of an eye, the wasp, seemingly immobilized, responded, reached out with its front legs and literally embraced its tiny captor. Then effortlessly it flapped its wings and flew off. The sticky web provided no resistance. For the wasp a delightful delicacy to enjoy out of sight. Wow. Strategy trumps brawn. Again.

Was this the wasp's intent all along? Were its wings beyond the clutch of the sticky web? Was its struggle simply a way of deceiving the spider? The incident could not have lasted more than 20 seconds. Twenty seconds of fascination, deception and, yes, strategy. The spider will never know.

A lesson from nature. A lesson for a lifetime.

Aidan, I know you really enjoy nature. This story is for you. While the incident is clear in your mind, draw me a picture. It will tell me what you saw in your mind’s eye. The eye of a child. I’m waiting.

Opa, July 29, 2012 

Others who would like to illustrate strategy. . . Well bring it on. Send it to


About the Author

Anton Hart is the publisher at Longwoods Publishing Corporation.



Aidan Hart wrote:

Posted 2012/07/30 at 08:38 PM EDT


I think it was cool, very surprising. I learned that spiders don't always get what falls in their webs.


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