When you think of interesting spiders, the UK might not be the first place that springs to mind. However, with over 650 species and an estimated 750 million individuals calling it home, it’s not surprising that a few of these species are more extraordinary than your average garden spider.
Often associated with Halloween and all things spooky, what better time to celebrate our eight-legged friends by taking a look at three of the coolest species – all of which can be found on an RSPB reserve. Or maybe even a little closer to home…
The attractive ladybird spider is one of the rarest in the UK. The males have a bright orange or red back with four large black spots and two smaller ones which gives them a likeness to ladybirds.
This spider is one of the most beautiful we have, and you’d be very lucky to spot one. This species was thought to be extinct in Britain for over 70 years, until it was rediscovered in 1980.
The lowland heathland ladybird spiders call home has suffered drastic declines over the last 100 years or so, being ploughed up for agriculture and forestry, or built on.
Fen raft spider
The fen raft is a beautiful spider that displays rich brown or black colour with white or cream stripes along the sides of the abdomen. It’s one of the UK’s largest, battling with the tegenaria parietina for the top spot. The female can be the same size as the palm of a human hand.
Sadly, the fen raft spider is only found in three places, in England and south Wales, including on RSPB land close to our Strumpshaw Fen reserve in the Norfolk Broads. Thanks to eight hairy legs, these striking creatures are able to sit on the surface of the water and move across it. Their diet is mostly made up of smaller spiders, dragonfly larvae and pond skaters. Surprisingly though, they have been known to catch small fish and tadpoles.
Female fen raft spiders are very caring mothers. After mating, the females build an eggs sac which they carry for approximately three weeks, dipping the egg sac in the water every few hours to keep them moist. When it is time to hatch the female builds a nursery web up to 25cm across, which she will guard for a week.
The pholcid spider can be easily recognised by their small body and extremely long legs, and are often spotted in the top corners of your home. Having long limbs is useful for this spider as it throws silk its prey using its back legs at. This species enjoys feasting on flies, bees, wasps, and the other spiders you see scuttling around your house in the autumn.
An old wives tale about pholcid spiders is that they are the world’s most venomous animal but don’t have jaws to bite. This is a myth - it does have venom, but it’s not particularly strong and although the do have jaws, they couldn’t pierce human skin. To other invertebrates however, they are the top of the food chain and one to be feared.
Spiders at home
Spiders are not everyone’s favourite creature, but there’s no denying they’re extraordinarily talented, useful and for the most part, very cool. If you have a spider in your home, there’s a strong chance they’ve contributed to pest control and your house is actually cleaner for allowing spiders to live there peacefully. So why not leave them be, and give nature a home by sharing yours.
To keep up to date with the conservation of the lady bird spider, take a look at The Back From The Brink project
Last Updated: Wednesday 1 May 2019