In a bizarre news item, the BBC reports:
A man has admitted sending a rare venomous spider in a package to a colleague at work. Mahlon Hector, 22, of Leicester delivered the Mexican red-kneed tarantula in a box addressed to a Marks & Spencer branch in Leicestershire. Hector handed in his resignation after dropping off the parcel at the Fosse Park store.
Now that’s curious enough. Curiouser still, however:
A Leicestershire Police spokesman said: “The spider may also have suffered and we would have pursued the matter under animal cruelty legislation but it does not cover invertebrates.”
How crazy is that? Just look at that cute, furry spider and imagine it being shaken up in a box for some weird practical joke! What if it was one of those sweet little grey squirrels, or rats? People would be marching in the streets, probably led by Sir Paul McCartney. Well, the spider was probably OK, but the Ranger is very fond of spiders, and was startled to learn that there’s no way in law to be cruel to invertebrates. Perhaps there’s room for one more pressure group? No more flyswats! Ban the beer-trap! Calamari and prawns will be off the menu when the Invertebrate Cruelty Act is finally passed…
First published 2006. Republished with corrections 2013.
Jumping spiders are, on the whole, pretty tiny things. And I say ‘pretty’Â deliberatelyÂ as they are amongst the cutest, funniest and most decorative of spiders. The game of ‘hide and seek’ with a passing zebra spider never grows old. But what if they were bigger? A lot bigger? They’d be irresistibly cute, surely! Well, Hyluss diardi, a south-east Asian species, is one of the biggest jumpers there is,Â growingÂ up to 10mm long. And here he is:
See a further video here.
The worlds’s cutest spider. It’s a hard-fought contest, with the jumpingÂ spidersÂ invariably on the podium. But I’ve got a soft spot for another family altogether, the eresids or Velvet Spiders. I think they’ve been unfairly overlooked and I’m going to see if I can redress the balance.
The UK’s only eresid is the Ladybird SpiderÂ Eresus sandaliatus, of which I have written before. I’ve never seen one, and there’s a chance I shan’t ever do so as it’s fearsomely rare in this country.
But hold on, there might be hope – both for the spiders and me. There’s now a Buglife campaign toÂ increaseÂ the tiny population of this delightful, but very rare, animal. I recently found out that Buglife give an unusual promise “For donations over Â£1000 weÂ can arrange a visit to a site for you to see the Ladybird spider in its natural habitat and experience this important conservation project first hand” So I’m starting aÂ campaignÂ to donate Â£1000 to Buglife for this wonderful spider. All donations gratefullyÂ received, if we get to Â£1000 I shall write, photograph and blog the visit ad nauseum. It might take a while but I intend to get there!
Folk-lore about spiders suggests that one way to keep them from the house is to leave conkers around the place. Some swear by it, others refute it. Nobody really seems to know, although you can buy chestnut-based anti-spider spray on Amazon, so somebody thinks it works enough to shell out
My favourite British spider – at least in theory, never having seen one – is the ultra-rare Ladybird Spider, of which I found a picture to illustrate a previous posting – here’s another:
Now, looking at this fine specimen on my screen led me to go surfing to find out a bit more about its current status. I first learnt of this splendid, if scarce, creature over 20 years ago, reading W.S.Bristowe. Then, it bore the comely name of Eresus niger (Petagna, 1787), a reference to the entirely-black female. By this name I still think of it. However, I’m aware that perhaps ten years ago, or maybe more, it changed its name to the far more cumbersome but no doubt more accurate Eresus cinnaberinus Walckenaer, 1805 (not sure why the change to a later attribution). I never really caught up with this, as it’s not really a name that one drops into every-day conversation – especially if you can’t spell it. On the few occasions when I was obliged to mention it I will confess to wilfully calling it Eresus niger and hoping that the spirit of Walckenaer wouldn’t be too disturbed. However, I felt a very vaguely nagging guilt about this, and so, eventually, when looking at its picture on my blog just today I decided once and for all, to learn the correct name and spelling. So off I went to the wonders of the internet, and what do you know? Its name had changed a third time! Now, bizarrely enough, it has become Eresus sandaliatus (Martini & Goeze, 1778). That’s slightly easier to spell, but frankly, this little spider is just too quick for me. With more names than UK breeding sites it’s got so far ahead of my addled brain that I’m going to register my official surrender ” I’ll call it the Ladybird Spider and be done with it. And nuts to Martini & Goeze. (Post first published 2005; updated with new image and links)
Thought I’d gone? Not really. Although I’m now even more of a virtual ranger than I ever was. Meanwhile, spiders! Check out this really great little video, and do watch right to the end!
A perennial question on this site’s popular Ask the Ranger facility is “Where do spiders go in the winter?” (So much so that the answer is given on the same page and can be found here). At this time of the year, however, more direct approaches to The Ranger are common, as spiders start appearing indoors all over the place and startled home-owners seek advice from their nearest spider enthusiast. So The Ranger was prepared when Naturenet designer Cat posed the question “Where do spiders come from in the autumn?”, or, more specifically, why is Cat’s flat filling up with spiders?
The spiders use Cat’s bath more than she does!
On investigation it did indeed seem as though Cat’s place was a great attraction for one of the largest spiders in the UK – Tegenaria gigantea. In her bath was an impressive male spider; and further searching, urged on from a distance by Cat, revealed two more similar males hiding in the kitchen sink. These two seemed to have fallen out with each other, and despite having somewhere lost two legs each, were intent on combat.
Using suitable equipment it is usually possible to capture even the largest specimen safely, and all three of the spiders were put in a plastic box safely. But this still leaves some of those questions that The Ranger is often asked – and here come the answers. Continue reading
Invert charity Buglife has published the results of its autumn Spider Survey, and managed to garner a few column inches. As ever, it’s instructive to see just how the spider is presented – and received.
So let’s start with the easy shots, shall we? You’ve probably noticed one already in the picture above: Louise Gray, the Telegraph’s environment correspondent, gets her name under a headline saying in one breath both ‘spiders’ and ‘insects’:
Every home in Britain has at least 30 spiders crawling around, according to the first national survey of the insects.
I think I’ll just pass over ‘crawling around’ – it’s just not worth my bother. But, for anyone still wondering, my beef with this slovenly sub-editing is that spiders are no more insects than humans are birds. But wait, there’s more. I’m going to get the glaring errors out of the way first, so we can see the subtler ones. Continue reading
At the risk of turning this blog into a Boydathon, The Ranger is unable to resist this awesome photo of one of his favourite spiders, Tetragnatha extensa.
Captured by Ian Boyd, this loving couple’s nuptial photo reveals a lot about just why this strange and lovely spider looks as it does. Continue reading
Oh, no! An Australian town has been terrorised by giant, venomous spiders.
Newspapers all around the world are recounting the ordeal of the town of Bowen, Queensland – the town recently made famous by Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia – with perhaps a little more relish than is strictly necessary:
“Super-sized tarantulas are spinning a web of terror in a town in Australia.” (Sky News) “Locals have been shocked by the size of the giant venomous spiders that have invaded an Outback town in Queensland” (The Times, Fox News) “It sounds like a remake of the campy horror movie, Eight Legged Freaks. But this is scarier, because it’s really happening” (Los Angeles Times) …and many more.
So, what’s going on out there? Continue reading