Dale Fort Blog Number 30

14 03 2014

SPIDERS

There are 40-odd thousand species of spiders in the world

Here is some interesting stuff about three common British species:

 

The common house spider

Many years ago when I lived at Dale Fort, my colleagues and I would while away the long summer evenings (after we’d finished teaching at 10-o-clock) by lounging about in the staff veranda discussing hypothetico-reductivism or Fiebleman’s principle of additional properties with increasing complexity of structure or whether it was worth walking down to the pub for a proper drink or could we face another dose of Miss Rapson’s home-made apple wine.  On this particular evening we decided on the last option.  After a couple of glasses it didn’t seem so bad and several people had joined us, a jolly evening began to ensue.  Then someone glanced at the wall behind the sofa and emitted a piercing scream.  Everyone looked at where she was pointing.  I have never seen a room empty so quickly.  The biggest spider I have ever seen (outside of a zoo) had emerged from behind the sofa.  It was a common house spider and it was unaware of its effect on us humans because it too seemed scared and scuttled behind the clock on the wall.  You could hear its feet clicking as it ran and I swear to you that I could see the clock pulsating against the wall.  It was HUGE,  at least 10cm across and we never saw it again.  I can only assume that it either died or left Pembrokeshire to begin a successful arm-wrestling career.  The point being that these spiders can become very large.  Avoid arm- wrestling with such massive specimens since they might win and what’s more they can inflict a powerful and painful bite (although they are not poisonous).House spider

Their prey items are things like beetles and earwigs. This species is most common spider to find in your bath.  Usually it’s the (longer legged, smaller bodied) males that get stuck in the bath because they go out on the pull looking for females (or prey) at night and after falling in can’t get out. They stay with the female after mating and after they die the female eats them.

In 1930 a policeman stopped the traffic on Tower Bridge to allow a large specimen to cross the road unsquashed.

They are said to cure the common cold if swallowed alive but this is not recommended because clearly it’s complete balderdash.

 

The daddy longlegs spider

Daddt longlegs spider

This species has 8 long thin not very hairy legs with black knee-caps and a small round body.  If you don’t like spiders this might be one to tolerate because they prey on the much scarier house spider.  The bite is not powerful enough and the fangs not long enough to penetrate your skin but they inject a very toxic venom which sees off house spiders.  When disturbed they will sometimes vibrate rapidly from side to side.  This is supposed to reduce their visibility to potential predators (e.g. birds, small mammals, beetles, my dog) and thus help protect them. Females carry a silk-wrapped egg bundle around for several weeks and eventually they hatch (30+ babies in my house) to re-infest your bathroom or any room that is not too cold.  They are far more common in southern Britain but appear to be spreading north in recent years, possibly in response to a milder climate.

The money spider

Money spider These are small (up to 2mm) black-bodied and I used to think not at all scary.  Now I  know better.  Recently, a Dale Fort Placement Student refused to enter a room until a particularly scary one was removed.

They usually live in vegetation and spin hammock shaped webs.  They prey on small agricultural pest species like aphids and mites and should be encouraged by gardeners and farmers.  There are over 600 different kinds and they spread about by spinning a long thread of silk which catches in the wind and carries them away.  It’s not known how far and it must be very variable but some reckon up to 100 miles.  If they come into your house it’s probably because they were attached to your clothing or they blew in.  They are the one kind of spider that hardly anyone (except Hayley) is scared of and they are said to bring luck (in the form of money obviously) to the person that they inadvertently use as transport.

Despite their generally benign reputation, The Natural History Museum has a report of them causing skin inflammation when several thousand of them at once bit some building workers.

 

 

 

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