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Your spider questions for the team

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Martin Hughes-Games Martin Hughes-Games | 14:24 UK time, Thursday, 14 October 2010

Watching a preview of Chris's wonderful spider safari on tonight's Autumnwatch made me think about how little is known about our eight-legged friends. There's so many myths and superstitions associated with them that it's difficult to discern the truth.

So now's your chance to get the facts... Is there anything about spiders you've always wanted to know but have been too afraid to ask? Post a comment below and we'll answer the best on the show tonight. (Remember, 8.30pm BBC Two!)

Update 18 October: Thanks for all your questions. Watch the clip below from Thursday's show where we answer them. If you have any more spider questions, try asking them to the clever people over on the messageboard or read our article on amazing spider facts.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Do spiders perceive time at the same speed as humans?

  • Comment number 2.

    Where do they go in the winter? Whilst they hang around a lot longer than most garden insects they do eventually disappear when the cold bites but where do they hide?

  • Comment number 3.

    We have lots of daddy long-legs spiders in our house and often see them eating other spiders. Is this unusual behaviour?

  • Comment number 4.

    What is the biggest prey a UK spider has been known to eat?

  • Comment number 5.

    Pleas can you tell me how good (or bad) is a spider's eyesight, and can spiders see in the dark? Thank you, Sue

  • Comment number 6.

    How many types of spider are there in the uk.And in which county is the greatest variety.

  • Comment number 7.

    So many are scared of spiders, I wonder was exactly we are scared of - is it they have so many legs, move so fast etc etc? Is there a history behind this 'fear'?

  • Comment number 8.

    For the first time this year I've seen wasp spiders. I know they are supposed to be relatively common now in the southeast (I'm in Kent), and although I'm scared of spiders, they are really beautiful. My question is, as they are an alien species, do they cause any problems for our native spiders/insects, or are they a welcome addition to our fauna as they're thought to have been here for so long? And also, as they're originally from mainland Europe, is it possible that they've been here before? I'd like to think that they're welcome - we get enough reports of introduced species causing trouble, it's nice to have a few that we can live with!


  • Comment number 9.

    When I see a spider indoors I catch it in a glass and (after having a good old look at it) throw it out of the window - is this cruel? I always thought that due to their weight they would be fine from a First Floor drop but my father found one dead after doing this. Horror. Is there a weight/drop ratio we should be aware of.

  • Comment number 10.

    I dont completley understand why people are scared of spiders in this country. Are there any spiders in the UK that can do us any damage?

  • Comment number 11.

    Why do spiders and other insects have so many legs - when many animals have 4?

    Just a thought.....

  • Comment number 12.

    Going back to the wasp spider post, we see them quite a lot in August but they disappear from the scene about mid-September. They have aposematc colouration - black and yellow stripes. These should put off bird predators but what about wasps and hornets? Do these have any inhibitions about attacking black and yellow striped objects? Are wasps and hornets (whose numbers peak in early September) the reason that wasp spiders disappear so quickly?

  • Comment number 13.

    does keeping conkers in your house keep spiders away or am im wasting my time collecting all these conkers ??

  • Comment number 14.

    Could you please explain why spiders don't get caught up or stuck in their own webs , as opposed to insects they are aiming to catch .

  • Comment number 15.

    I have many big spiders in my house, and they are very welcome, but sometimes I have the feeling that they have bitten me, is that possible?
    Spiders are no insects, is that correct?

  • Comment number 16.

    Dear Autumnwatch I have heard rumours that if i scatter conkers around my house it will prevent spiders from entering. Is this true?

  • Comment number 17.

    How far can they travel on those 'parachutes' that they make from a thread of their own silk?

    If a House Spider is taken outside, can it survive?

    how long can a spider live for?

    How do they catch and eat wasps and bees without being stung?

  • Comment number 18.

    Why do some female spiders eat their mate after mating? Why not just have a cigarette like anyone else? : )

  • Comment number 19.

    I have posted a picture that I took of a spider under a bough of my camellia.(Valerian51) In a web adjacent to it, were dozens of tiny wings, stuck to the silk. Is it possible that the owner of this web has eaten the tiny bodies and left the wings behind?

  • Comment number 20.

    I have a question. Some spiders have eight eyes. Does this mean that they have a much greater depth of 3d vision than we do and what advantages doe this have?

  • Comment number 21.

    Why do we see so many spiders in the Autumn when most flies and insects are more abundant in the summer?

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Chris,
    Is it true that the house spider is the most poisonous spider in the UK but it is harmless to us because it doesn't have the fangs to puncture our skin, and get its poison into our system.
    from Alex Berryman
    age 13

  • Comment number 24.

    what is the largest spider web ever measured in the United Kingdom?
    aged thirteen

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Autumnwatch! I have heard of a water spider that can swim under water how do they manage to do this when most insects die when they fall into water also how do they manage to breathe under water?

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Chris
    Do spiders have a diapause? Is this another word for the geek to introduce us to?

  • Comment number 27.

    Today I watched a spider kill a fly on the outside of a classroom window. It took ages to kill it and once it had killed it a wasp came along and ripped the fly out of the web and flew off with it. Do wasps scavenge from spider webs often and did it wait until the spider had killed it so it was easier or did it just come upon it when it was dead by chance? Cheers, Mark

  • Comment number 28.

    Hello Team
    This year I vowed to do a lot more of sitting about on the lawn, looking around me for mini beasts and spiders & staring into my garden's hedges to watch webs being spun, prey and male spiders being devoured etc..as you do. I watched courtship of Wolf Spiders for the first time in the Spring and now Garden spiders this Autumn, both very different and both very interesting wonderful to watch. I'd like to know more about other species of UK spiders and their courtship and what are the average life spans of these and our other species of spiders? and! can spiders recognize each other (surviving males) and possibly mate with the same spider more than once?

    Thank you.

  • Comment number 29.

    We all know spiders have multiple eyes but does every eye pick up the same image or can they focus on several images at once?

  • Comment number 30.

    I once came across a blue spider (long legs and small body,) about the size of the old 50p coin, in a pub that is very close to the shore. I picked it up and put it outside. After doing this, I then thought that I hadn't really seen any blue spiders on the Isle of Man before, or in the UK. Are you aware of any? - I haven't seen one since.

  • Comment number 31.

    A lot of spiders are sitting out in the open this time of year, and should be very obvious to predatory birds. Why don't they just get picket off by a Big Titt or so?

  • Comment number 32.

    Perfect! I was gathering my thoughts on spiders only y'day ready to ask Chris some Q's for hopefully including in today's show/s, and to ask that creatures such as this be featured much more this year ... So, my Q's -

    1) - How do spiders keep warm (if indeed they do - shamefully I don't even know this much ...), especially as the temperature drops (or do the low temps.simply kill them?)? And (how) does their mechanism differ from those of other minibeasts eg millipedes, woodlice, wasps etc (do any of these creatures hibernate, or hide in holes etc?)?

    2) - What do spiders do with their web "silk" when they pack up their webs? I ask this particularly as I was absolutely captivated recently to watch a tiny spider on our balcony spend some considerable time painstakingly extracting a long hair from its web (guilty I'm afraid ... but it inadvertently provided me with some wonderful entertainment!). The whole process seemed to take about 10-15 mins., maybe longer, and was a brilliantly intricately executed operation - I have a whole sequence of fascinating and amusing photos (sadly taken in the week or so before the start of Sept. so I can't post them on the AW Flikr pages!). Having finally dispatched the hair to the ground the spider then appeared to have decided to give up, probably pretty exhausted (the hair had had to be detached from the web in very many different places, being repeatedly moved and meticulously bent to ensure that it didn't re-attach itself to the web, and I suspect that the spider felt, given that so many repairs and checks would be needed to rescue its web, it would be better to go for a complete re-build once it had regained its strength!). I don't know if spiders can identify the different (non-edible) things which arrive uninvited in their webs (is this another Q?) and this particular spider seemed extremely agitated by this giant unwelcome invader - it certainly wasn't going to let it stay there!! It acted as though it felt it was a hostile visitor but maybe it was just annoyed that it was reducing the efficacy of its web?

    I'm including a photo which I managed to grab just before the spider retired to rest - hope that this is OK and sorry that the relevant bit is so small and a bit "fuzzy" (the spider suddenly retreated really quickly and the ball rolling all happened so fast!!) but I think it is amazing to see the web being economically and rapidly rolled up like this, and as though being got ready for a game of eight-legged football (now there's a thought ...). Is this peculiar-looking behaviour in fact normal for spiders and I've just never managed to observe it before?! And is anybody able to definitively i/d the spider from this pic? I don't think it's anything too exotic but all these little critters are most welcome in our tiny patch of "outdoors" - I feel so honoured that they choose to share our little home and "garden" (and that they clearly approve of my laissez-faire "gardening" style) and it's always very interesting finding out more about them).

    Hope that this is of interest and that Chris or someone can explain what happens next in such instances - presumably the valuable, high-energy web strands are re-absorbed for use later? Is the "silk" some kind of protein? And how often do spiders rebuild their webs - it seems to be daily, at least, but presumably this varies depending on how much prey etc is caught, how damaged the webs become by wind and rain, dogs and cats etc (and humans!) and maybe also on the type of spider?

    Thanks for considering all my Q's (in the event, many more than two I'm afraid!) - I'm now looking forward to tonight with even more anticipation ..!! (But hope this un-intendedly long piece doesn't now arrive too late to be included ...!) Regards, TB/EB.

  • Comment number 33.

    Re-sending pic - otherwise I'll try to get it on the web via the AW Flikr site ... here's hoping, thanks!

  • Comment number 34.

    do we have any threatened or endangered species of spiders in the uk, and if so is there anything being done about it ?

  • Comment number 35.


    Re the massive missive above - I hope you can access and associate my photo from the above Flikr/AW group ref attached to the pic I've just posted (from Erniebobble!) - but, especially as the photo was obviously not taken during AW's defn. of autumn, it may still be rejected anyway ... Sorry for all this chaos and confusion - I do find juggling the BBC sites quite complicated, especially without broadband and with only limited memory (and that's just for my poor, over-worked computer ...!!). Thanks again and maybe third time lucky ..! TB/EB

  • Comment number 36.

    I have had a small colony of wasp spiders in my garden for the last few years. However, there were'nt any last year and so I did'nt expect to see them again, especially after the very cold winter. Imagine my surprise when one turned up this August, catching it's favourite prey of grasshoppers, before constructing an egg case and disappearing again. What I would like to know is what happens inside the egg case and at what time do the baby spiders emerge? I would like to know because the spiders usually live in an area of long grass that I try to manage for wild-life and it is important for me know when it is the right time to cut it. I usually cut it late feb, early March.

  • Comment number 37.

    What are the sinister black spiders which live in holes in masonry and spin flat, almost square webs with a tiny hole over the top of the hole. We've had hundreds of them along our north easterly facing dark sheltered house wall. I have never seen them before but now I am aware, I have seen them all over Bournemouth. Spiders, stunning & beautiful.

  • Comment number 38.

    Is the raft spider the rareist British native spider? Also, is it the biggest British spider?

  • Comment number 39.

    Spy-der in the sky - or If at first ... P1230535 CC

    Sorry, it's me again ...!!!! The above may also help you associate the above text and the related photo - if anyone IS still interested ... oh dear ?!?!!?!? TB/EB We shall all enjoy the shows anyhows - and Good Luck!

  • Comment number 40.

    Why is a crab spider so shaped?

  • Comment number 41.

    On my Land Rover I have loads of holes and cracks for spiders to live. The only problem is there very close together. How can 3-4 spiders live within a doors span of each other without fighting or competing for food?

    I also noticed its only ever one species (not sure which). There about the size of a 20p piece and are mottled browns with legs which I would say are proportional to its body (unlike the daddy long legs spiders). Very common spiders I have found.

  • Comment number 42.

    What is it about conkers that spiders don't like? I am not a fan of spiders (I am not a killer of them though!) and a nurse told me top put conkers round my house. It worked!! Now I am unlucky top get one or two during spider season

  • Comment number 43.

    Can spiders see in the dark?

  • Comment number 44.


    how do spiders get their web between 2 points that are a fair distance apart and other than the silk unconnected?

  • Comment number 45.

    I've got a spider I've called Hilda living in my kitchen window. I think she's a garden orb spider. (I've a photo if there is any way to post it to you.)
    She's been with me for nearly 18mths and I'd just like to know how long she is likely to live,
    During the summer when it was very dry I misted her web with water and it was facinating to watch her picking the droplets and putting them in her mouth.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Martin
    Having watched your program about the garden spider, have watched female spin her web and then mate with a male. But what I'd like to know is do they spin their web's always in the same direction. ie. clockwise as your watching them from behind? Also, saw a "wasp spider" down in Painters Forstal near Faverhsam, Kent a couple of years ago, is that usual so far north?
    Nicky Cox
    Bromley, Kent

  • Comment number 47.

    How do spiders not stick to their own webs?

  • Comment number 48.

    Spiders. Frequent baths and then can not get out so one has to help them.
    Why are they unable to scale bath sides when they have such a great invention for attaching to walls and ceilings?
    Just a tip for those who are not keen on handling them. Use a fly swat. No not to swat but to jiggle under them and then tap spider into corner where they will keep out of your way.
    [milvus otherwise known as Jo from Knighton, mid Wales]

  • Comment number 49.

    Is it true that the Americans used the silk from the black widow spider for the cross hairs on telescopic gun sites?

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi, some years ago, i awoke one morning to find that my left upper eyelid had ballooned, to the point i couldn't see out of the eye. The doctor found two small puncture marks and told me i'd been bitten by a type of wolf spider in my sleep - do you think he was correct? Cheers Andy Sargent.

  • Comment number 51.

    How do spiders make webs from one twig to another? Can they jump?

  • Comment number 52.

    Hi guys, I don't want to prove chris wrong. About a year ago I was playing golf at my local course, when I felt a sharp pinprick in the crease of my arm. I looked down to see a British jumping spider (zebra spider) jump off my arm into the grass. This evolved into a raised bite mark, followed by a large red patch covering most of my arm, with itching and tingling thrown in for good measure!

  • Comment number 53.

    Hi Roger here from Alvechurch Birmingham !

    Whilst out for a walk in some local meadows early in the morning I have noticed that there are hundreds of different sized spider webs ranging from very small to very large. Can you explain why this is please ??

    Great show by the way !

  • Comment number 54.

    I'd like to know, are there any poisonous spiders that have managed to make it into the UK from other countries?
    If so, approximately how many are there and would they breed effectively in our climate?

    Many thanks,
    Yasmin :)

  • Comment number 55.

    Evening everyone,

    Please can you tell me just how much silk a spider can spin? Can a spider spin web after web if need be, (e.g.should their web be broken down) or do they need to rest for a certain amount of time before starting a new web? Do spiders always spin webs in proportion to their body size?


  • Comment number 56.

    Not long ago I was walking home and I saw a spider on the wall which caught my attention. I hadn't seen anything like it before; the back was red and I think the rest of it was brown, although I didn't get too close because I'm unfortunately not so fond of spiders. A couple walking past me saw it too and one of them seemed to have seen it before. They said it was a type that wasn't native to Britain, I think he called it the Red-back spider, and that if you see one you should inform a group- I can't remember which, but I was wondering if you knew anything about this spider?

  • Comment number 57.

    Conkers and spiders

    Conkers repel spiders? That's a total myth.
    Pomegranates however really do the trick
    Cut in half and leave them to rot around your rooms.
    No smell is emitted - the toxins put spiders in tombs.
    Cloves or faithful cinnamon - give off a heavenly scent.
    You'll also find the long legged chaps just packed up and went!
    Watch out then all the spiders that live in Graham's house.
    Conkers all around there, when nibbled would kill a mouse.
    If you climb up over them you'll probably break your legs.
    Then you'll die of hunger for the want of a couple of pegs.
    Watch out if people throw them and hit you on the head
    A painful lump will grow there and send you to your bed.
    Conkers repel spiders? You must be well aware
    The ones in the garden might stay outside, but the house ones are already there.

  • Comment number 58.

    Have just watched autumnwatch and am wondering how you can say you will look behind the myths concerning spiders and then go on to say spiders silk is as strong as steel. I can go into the garden now and pull a blade of grass through a spiders web and completely destroy it. If the web was made of steel there is no way I could destroy it with a blade of grass, how do you justify your assertions concerning the strenght of spiders silk when real life experience shows it totaly erronous.

  • Comment number 59.

    Reply to BennyG comment 52:

    I too have had experience of spifer bites gone wrong. I reckon it's rare mind. My friend had one that required IV antibiotics after reacting intially like yours then getting infected. EEEKK!!

  • Comment number 60.

    Lots & lots of questions on here tonight.So could you do another blog post to answer most, if not all of them for us? seeing as Autumnwatch & Unsprung are always "running out of time" it only seems fair to do this sometime for all those interested in each others questions which were asked for by Autumnwatch today.

  • Comment number 61.

    The spiders are moving in! Does this mean a bad winter is ahead? For the first year since living in my house the tiger stripped garden spiders are making appearances all around my house. These are in addition to the usual hairy house spiders which i have seen more of this year and the small bodied - spindley legged spiders that live in every nook and cranny. In fact there must be at least 8 breeds of spiders in my house!

  • Comment number 62.

    Yes, thank you RockLobster - although I don't know what else to hope for with so many interested and only a relatively short, fairly impromptu programme each week, it's still disappointing every year when most people's stuff seems just to sink, apparently unnoticed, into a black hole in cyberspace or otherwise evaporate into the ethernet. But it's particularly demoralising when Q's are specifically sought - and quite close to the broadcast's start too! - and then barely a mention seems to be made on air, or elsewhere, as to what use might be made of all this obvious curiosity. Glad it's not just me wondering what this is all for. Wasn't too much fuss made of all those amazing photos either, tho' I know it's difficult to juggle everything "live". I get the impression that the AW Team are maybe somewhat over-committed this season (either with AW or other projects), but people might start feeling less involved and lose interest if this continues so any follow-up, or indiction of future plans, would be v welcome. Here's hoping yet again. Regards, TB/EB

  • Comment number 63.

    I was surprised to hear Chris comment that only 2 spider species have fangs strong enough to break human skin. Natural History Museum would disagree (see web page link!)http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/life/insects-spiders/identification-guides-and-keys/spider-bites/index.html
    I was recently bitten (indoors, but unconfirmed) requiring treatment! The bite itself and skin reaction were unlike any insect bite. Now I have to try to locate whatever it was in the room!

  • Comment number 64.

    Has Chris heard of the false widow spider, Steatoda nobilis, which arrived on the banana boats in Weymouth in the 1960s and has now spread along the coast to Portsmouth. My daughter, who lives in Stamshaw, has them in her garden, and has been bitten twice, and on one occasion had to have a week off work because her leg was so swollen and painful. Her husband has also been bitten, as have several of the neighbours.

  • Comment number 65.

    I did enjoy the spider section but was disappointed to be told silk is composed of beta sheets (correctly) yet shown a diagram of an alpha helix. Alpha helices are the secondary structure of wools, hairs and horns. Incidently, the crude sketch was also sad. Protein structural studies have provided coordinates for thousands of proteins that have, and are being, deposited in free access databases. Appropriate software transforms these data into images that rival anything else in nature for beauty. Not surprising really - all biology depends on the stucture and activities of proteins.
    Chris smith

  • Comment number 66.

    I watched a spider at our window, systematically destroying its own web - why when it looked like a perfectly good web?

  • Comment number 67.

    Would spiders wear hats on formal occasions?
    How hard are spiders?
    How old are your spiders on the show?
    What does 'spiders' stand for?
    Why are spiders so damned reasonable?
    What happened to most spiders during the second world war?
    Can a spider write its own autobiography (would it need help?)
    Why do spiders float on water but not Ouzo?
    Would spiders favour proportional representation?
    Spiders. Ancient Greece. Discus.
    When a man loves a woman, does a spider?
    Are spiders annoying to the Welsh?
    How do spiders!
    What do spiders think of a)Victoria Coren? b) Giles Coren? c) Alan Coren?
    Do spiders have taste? Is it good taste?
    Spider excrement - from whence?
    What does 'peth' mean in spider?
    How much would a lifetime of spiders cost?
    How much would a lifetime of spiders weigh?
    Can spiders be frozen for later?
    What was FW Murnau's last words about spiders?
    How many people does it take to manufacture a basic, crude spider.
    What is the capital of Spiders?

    You should have enough to go on here. If you need anymore,let me know.

  • Comment number 68.

    Oh my, Christmas cracker jokes already? (Ah, but “shoe’d” they? Not as hard as snails? ...Let them first have a show of hands? ...That sadly there are no flies on them? ...That itth mouth is full whilst it’th talking about a common garden thomething [peth] that it eatth regularly? ...Depends on how much it/they eight? Etc., etc., etc.)

  • Comment number 69.

    Best not write the whole list - too much for the average "groan" person?

  • Comment number 70.

    Are some spiders more aggressive in the autumn - I was bitten by one in mid september whilst camping near Skipton, it went septic, conventional wounds dressings failed and the wound became big, painful and ugly so I resorted to using a dressing with ordinary honey it, despite the doctor saying the wound would not heal until Christmas, thanks to the honey the wound should be healed soon though.

    Where we were camping there were stone walls and young trees right by our tent and small spiders invaded the tent all week, they looked like cross spiders

  • Comment number 71.

    hi guys
    just thought you might like to hear a funny story about a spider, I was in the kitchen and about to do some washing up and I noticed a spider in the sink. I thought I'd be kind to it and take it outside to the garden, I picked it up and had just turned round to take it out and it bit me!!

    I dropped it back in the sink and as it was be kind to spiders day(ha ha) I picked it up again and this time got it safetly outside. Now the funny ending to this story was that the night before the whole family had been watching...guess what? yes thats right we watched Siderman!! Well for the rest of the day the family kept a close eye on me, waiting to see if I started to spin webs or climb up walls!!

  • Comment number 72.

    Found a spider in my jeans as I got it off the washing line.its about 1 and a half centermetres big maroon head beige peanut like body orange/brown legs looks like it only has 2 eyes. What type of spider is this?


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