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Tim Wass on spider welfare

The welfare of spiders was always a top priority for the Spider House team. We worked closely with Tim Wass MBE – an experienced independent animal welfare advisor – who advised on all aspects of spider welfare during production.

We wanted to reveal the secret story unfolding in homes across the country
Tim Wass

Tim talks about the spiders in the house, as well as providing insight on spider welfare in Britain.

Where did the spiders come from?

Many were collected from other houses, gardens, fields, outhouses, sheds, garages and woodland. The rest we obtained by working closely with insect and arachnid breeder Graham Smith, a highly skilled and experienced invertebrate breeder and supplier who works regularly with colleges, universities and other institutions of academic excellence on various aspects of invertebrate research.

What species of spider did you have in the house?

We wanted to reveal the secret story unfolding in homes across the country so we focused on species most commonly found in, and around, British homes. These included: the House Spider family, the Daddy Long Legs spider, several Orb Weaving species such as Araneus Diadematus, the Zebra Jumping spider and the False Widow. We also played host to some exotic ‘special guests’ such as several members of the Theraphosid family (commonly known as Tarantulas) and even a large jumping spider (Phiddipus Regius), which is native to North America.

How long did the spiders spend in the house?

The Spider House project ran for 6 weeks and the spiders were there from the start. We moved them in early to give each spider enough time to settle comfortably. In the house, each spider was installed on a typical a household item best suited to their individual needs, such as type of web that they typically weave. Our spider breeder, Graham Smith, monitored each of these domestic habitats regularly for humidity, airflow and temperature. He also ensured each spider was provided with plenty of food and water.

What happened to the spiders after filming was finished?

We returned many spiders to the exact woodlands, fields and gardens where they were found. The rest we returned to our spider breeder and expert Graham Smith.

How did you ensure that the spiders didn’t kill each other?

In general, spiders are quite solitary creatures, so to ensure each spider felt safe and secure, we gave each spider its own individual temporary home. The exception to this rule was the Daddy Long Legs spider, which is a more social species, so we allowed members of the same families to move across each other’s webs, as they would do naturally in the wild.

How did you ensure nobody was bitten by a spider?

There’s a common misconception that spiders bite humans, but spider bites are incredibly rare and most of our British species’ fangs are not even capable of breaking human skin. If a spider does bite, it will only ever be in self-defence and it will generally feel no worse than a bee sting. However to ensure our spiders didn’t feel threatened enough to nip during production, we ensured our spiders were only ever handled by trained animal wranglers.

What legislation protects the spiders during production?

When it comes to filming, most animals are covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Cinematograph Act (animals) 1937, as well as various animal welfare transit laws and regulations. However invertebrates, including spiders, are not covered by UK legislation. Despite this, the Spider House team remain fully committed to protecting the welfare of each spider in the Spider House and took several steps to ensure their welfare needs was appropriately and adequately met.

How can we improve spider welfare in Britain?

Most importantly, try to be comfortable living alongside them. If you find one in the bath or elsewhere please don’t flush it or crush it. Just use a glass and piece of paper to catch the spider and pop it outside. Alternatively use a small towel in the palm of your hand, gently pick it up and then shake it out of the window or door.