Watch out – the spiders are coming

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Warm damp summer means arachnid numbers are set to soar. You have been warned, says Michael McCarthy


Good news for naturalists; bad news for arachnophobes. Reports of sightings from around the country suggest this is an absolutely bumper year for spiders. In gardens and garages, in houses and hedges, in town and countryside both, spiders are unusually prominent this autumn, spinning their shimmering webs in such numbers that the conservation charity Buglife is asking people to go on a spider hunt this weekend and next.

Buglife – officially the Invertebrate Conservation Trust – wants to get a proper idea of just how numerous this year's spider crop really is, and also try to counter some people's arachnophobia, as fear of spiders is technically known (from the fact that spiders and scorpions are not insects but arachnids, with eight legs as opposed to six).

"Spiders get a very bad press generally and we want people to reappraise them, and see how they are important to the local environment," said Matt Shardlow, Buglife's director. "Britain is very bad for spider phobia – it's worse here than in countries where they do have venomous species. I don't think we're genetically hard-wired for it. I think it has a social origin – people react to other people's fear."

In fact, Mr Shardlow points out, none of Britain's 650 spider species can deliver a fatal bite and only one uncommon species, the noble false widow, can even give a bite that will cause discomfort. The rest, including all the spiders you are likely to meet in your house and garden, are entirely harmless.

Right now, many are very visible as the generally warm and damp summer has provided ideal breeding conditions after the two washout summers of 2007 and 2008; and they are not only numerous, but not a few seem larger than normal as there has been abundant insect food for them (and some of the females are heavily pregnant).

"It's been an absolutely fantastic year for spiders," said Dante Munns, a naturalist and spider enthusiast who runs the Dorset nature reserves of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. "It's one of the best autumns I've ever seen for them. On misty mornings the webs seem to be glistening everywhere, and the countryside is full of them."

Spiders Mr Munns has been noticing and enjoying on his nature reserves recently include wasp spiders, whose females are brightly striped in yellow and black, and raft spiders, palm-sized beasts which do not spin a web but float on the surface of the water and feel the vibration if an insect falls in (which they then scurry over to capture.)

More familiar spiders Mr Shardlow has been watching include the garden cross spider, the common house spider and the daddy-long-legs spider, all of which you are more likely to see around your home, and all of which might seem to some people surprisingly large, although they present no threat whatsoever.

Buglife is asking people to poke around in their houses, garages, gardens and sheds to see if they can spot and identify 10 spider species over this weekend and the first weekend in October – and send in their results using the Buglife website at

Five spiders to spot this weekend

*Garden cross spider

Araneus diadematus

The commonest garden spider, with a white cross on its back that looks like a crucifix; spins an orb-like web.

*Common house spider

Tegeneria domestica

Spins a sheet web instead of an orb web, usually in the corner of a room, which is why cobwebs seem to collect in corners.

*Wasp spider (female)

Argiope bruennichi

First seen in the 1920s, but has now spread throughout much of southern England. The female's wasp-like coloration is thought to be mimicry which serves as a defence against predators such as birds.

*Daddy-long-legs spider

Pholcus phalangioides

Common in house cellars, this has a long thin body and even longer, thinner legs. It will eat other spiders, if they blunder into its almost invisible webs in dark corners.

*Raft spider

Dolomedes fimbriatus

This spider has worked out that water can have the same properties as a spider's web: it can trap insects, and convey the vibrations caused by their struggles to the spider waiting on the surface.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?