Are spiders afraid of conkers?

I doubt there’s a spider enthusiast who is not familiar with enquiries about how to keep spiders out of the house. It hardly needs to be pointed out that spider-lovers are the last people who should be asked such a question – indeed, many would probably be interested in how to make spiders come into a house, if such a thing were possible. House spiders can be every bit as interesting as those outside, and a lot easier to observe. I shall not deny the excitement I experienced when I rediscovered the spitting spider, Scytodes thoracica in my house, nearly twenty years after I had last seen one. With such fascinating creatures willing to share one’s home, how anyone could want to have fewer spiders indoors is sometimes hard for me to appreciate. But to pass as a responsible member of society it is sometimes necessary to maintain a certain abstraction, and thus to entertain queries from those who don’t have the same enthusiasm for spiders. Continue reading Are spiders afraid of conkers?

Autumn mowing? Look out for spider egg sacs!

I was out looking at a site preparing for an autumn cut. Hopefully we will get it done before it rains too much – but I did discover something interesting. This is a site where in the summer I saw Argiope, the Wasp Spider. This spectacular creature is now found in long grassland habitat across the southern parts of England.

Argiope eggsac

Continue reading Autumn mowing? Look out for spider egg sacs!

Prepare yourselves for the crazy spider story season

It’s that time of year again, when the media warms up for a summer of ‘False Widow’ scare stories. Not for nothing is Steatoda nobilis known as the Daily Mail Spider. For although it’s more-or-less harmless to most people, it gets rolled out every single year with the same old lame tales of impossible injuries and reactions to a supposed spider bite.

Prepare yourselves!

Really, there’s little or nothing to worry about if you’ve got false widows in your house or garden. And here’s why. Continue reading Prepare yourselves for the crazy spider story season

This spider is pretending to be a beetle

Piotr Naskrecki
Coccorchestes ferreus by Piotr Naskrecki

Jumping spiders are known to imitate ants – and some of these clever mimics can be found in the UK. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen a beetle-mimic.

The species is Coccorchestes ferreus which is mostly found in New Guinea, and very rarely on mainland Australia.

Spiders by post – that’s got to be cruel, hasn’t it?

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.

Mexican red-kneed tarantula

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.

An enormous jumping spider

Jumping spiders are, on the whole, pretty tiny things. And I say ‘pretty’ deliberately 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, growing up to 10mm long. And here he is:


See a further video here.

Is Eresus the cutest spider on earth? Send me to find out.

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.

Eresus sandaliatus
Eresus sandaliatus

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!

Continue reading Is Eresus the cutest spider on earth? Send me to find out.

More names! More names!

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:

Male ladybird spider

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)

Why do spiders come indoors in the autumn?

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?

Tegeneria in Cat's bath © Cat James

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.

Removing a spider © Cat James

Cunning use of a beaker and a postcard of Frankie Howerd!

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 Why do spiders come indoors in the autumn?