EXPLORE EPISODE FIVE - 24 to 21

Bringing to life spectacles of natural wonder on our doorstep

No.21
Arachnids

Spider c/o Jane Longhorn

There are 640 species of spider in the UK, 250 are the tiny spiders often referred to as money spiders.  There are more than 80,000 species of spider  worldwide.  They belong to a group of animals called Arachnids which are arthropods. Their bodies are in two parts, the front part, the cephalothorax, and the rear part, the opisthoma.  They have four pairs of legs, once pair of chelicerae (‘fangs’) and one pair of pedipalps which help with eating and reproduction.

All spiders are venomous. They inject the poison which also contains digestive fluids into their victims and it liquefies them. The spider then drinks the resulting soup leaving an empty skin. According to the Natural History Museum, a dozen or more of the spider species which live in the UK can actually give humans a ‘significant or unpleasant’ bite.

Some of the more common spiders which you may find in your house and garden are:

The House Spider (Tegenaria domestica) is a large spider with a body of about 10mm and a diameter including its legs which can reach 60mm. The males are smaller than the females which can live for up to four years. Both can vary in colour from yellowish through to dark brown.

The Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) is the commonest large orb-web spider in the garden.  It sits in the middle of its web which is regarded as a ‘classic’ spider's web. The Garden Spiders abdomen has a distinct cross on it formed by a row of white dots going downwards and white streaks going across.

The Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi) is so called because the female is distinctively marked with a yellow and black striped lower body. The males are pale brown. It’s believed the species was introduced from continental Europe and it used to be found mainly on the south coast of England but it seems to be spreading.

Mating is dangerous in all spiders. The female Wasp Spider, for example, usually wraps her mate in silk before eating him as they mate. In fact, being eaten by his mate isn’t an uncommon fate for a spider.

Find out more about spiders...

Weblinks

BBC Science and Nature - Spiders

Everything you ever wanted to know about spiders

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Photo gallery

Watch and Listen

Chris Packham and spider expert, Emma Shaw, watch a spider meticulously constructing its web:

Watch the video clip

 

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Tips

Tips for viewing this species:

  • Spiders webs are easier to see in the outdoors early in a morning when they’re covered in dew.
  • Strike a tuning fork and touch it to a strand of a spider’s web. The spider should come along to investigate the vibration to see if it’s been caused by something getting caught in the web.
  • Take some snaps and compare different spiders’ webs.

Habitat

Spiders are all around us, There are spiders which live in houses, gardens, near water, in woodlands, everywhere.  Most build webs in which to live and catch their prey.  Spiders have different types of silk which they use for different purposes. In terms of tensile strength spider ‘silk’ is half as strong as steel and over twice as strong as bone.

Spider c/o Jane Longhorn

Webs are both a home for the spider and a means of trapping its prey. There are four basic types of web, the orb web, the ‘tangly’ web, the sheet web and the funnel web (which is a sheet web with a tunnel). Spiders are the ultimate recyclers and will build a new web everyday after eating the old one.

Spiders produce silk from spinnerets, one to build webs, another one to build a nest for eggs and another one again to wrap up the prey. The Wasp Spider can be seen reaching back to collect the silk and pull it from its spinnerets, especially when wrapping up prey.

The Garden Orb Spider spins a classic spiders web, like spokes and circles forming a silken wheel. The radial threads and the frame threads joining them are made of different kinds of silk, the frame threads sticky and the radials not. Scientists in the past have conducted some rather strange experiments with spiders. In the 1960s they tried exposing spiders to LSD and caffeine to see what effect it had on their web making abilities. They found that caffeine had the more extreme result and the web making became totally haphazard.

Parakeet

No. 24 - Parakeet roost

They're not native to this country but the RSPB estimates that there are about 30,000 ring necked pararkeets living in South East England.

Best places to see - London and South East England.

 

Crane c/o rspb Mike Langman

No. 23 - Common Crane

Find out about the only one of the world's 15 species of crane which has ever been native to Britain.

Best places to see - Norfolk and Suffolk.

 

Peregrine Falcon

No. 22 - Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey, or raptors, cover a wide range of birds, find out which one has such keen eyesight it's reputed to be able to see a rabbit twitch two miles away.

Best places to see - UK-wide although Golden Eagle sightings are generally restricted to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

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