The worlds’s cutest spider. It’s a hard-fought contest, with the jumping spiders 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 Spider 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 to increase the tiny population of this delightful, but very rare, animal. I recently found out that Buglife give an unusual promise “For donations over £1000 we 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 a campaign to donate £1000 to Buglife for this wonderful spider. All donations gratefully received, if we get to £1000 I shall write, photograph and blog the visit ad nauseum. It might take a while but I intend to get there!
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)