Blog written by Young Ambassador Chris Bailey

Autumn has seen many wildlife spectacles unfold, migrant birds from the summer leave and are replaced by those arriving from areas of extreme cold to spend the winter in our mild climate, trees will begin to start shedding their leaves for the winter and fungi will soon sprout out of the soil from which these leaves will decay in. It is at this time of year however where certain eight – legged visitors also make a more common appearance.

Many people fear them, while some are more accepting of them and the role they play in our world; you guessed it, I am talking about spiders. In the UK we have over 650 recorded species of spider, each of which varies in shape, size and colour, and can be found in different parts of the UK at various different habitats. At this time of year, it is common to see spiders entering our homes, where they will often cause alarm as they are discovered trying to escape from the bathtub or being seen out the peripheral vision as they scamper along the skirting boards of livings rooms and staircases.

99% of the time, the species you are seeing is a house spider, the name house spider is a broad term for group of five individual species, some of which are very rare and localised whereas some are almost reliant on our central heated houses and outbuildings for their survival.

House spiderHouse spider. Credit: Dr Malcolm Storey

The most common species seen in homes is the common house spider, most of the time these spiders create sheet webs or ‘cobwebs’ in quiet corners is the least occupied rooms of the house as well as outbuildings such as sheds and garages, these sheet webs will lead to a silken tubular retreat in which the spider stays inside, venturing to the entrance at night to wait for prey to land on its web, the spider rushes out with lightning speed immobilising the prey and taking it back to its retreat to eat. When in their webs they are quick to retreat at the sound of predators and despite their large size, they have zero intentions of causing harm to humans, the bite although it may well be a painful nip will have no medical significance.

However, at this time of year it is common to see the males of this species wandering around our households, running at fast speeds through your living room in your peripheral vision and unfortunately getting stuck in bathtubs where if left alone they will not survive unless human intervention is provided. Once a male has located a prospective mate, he will begin to drum on the web using his palps (specialised sensory limbs) and bobbing his abdomen, if the female is satisfied with her suitor, the male will enter the web and transfer sperm to the female using his palps. After all this, the male will then stay with the female and defend her from potential rival males, in the end the male will eventually die but not for nothing for he has ensured the survival of his genetics for the next generation.

It’s not just house spiders that are present within our homes and outbuildings, several other species can be found living around human infrastructure.

Zebra jumping spiderZebra jumping spider at Smallbrook Meadows nature reserve. Credit: Steve Smailes.

Zebra jumping spiders scuttle over walls and surfaces searching for prey. Mouse spiders; named after their smooth hairs on their abdomen resembling that of a mouse, hide in cracks and crevices during the day before emerging at night. Venturing outside at night with a torch can yield species such as false widow, tube web and lace web spiders as they hang about at the entrance of their webs waiting for insects to stumble too close.

Talking about the different spiders living in the UK could lead to me writing for hours and would require a much longer article detailing my own experiences, the species mentioned in this article are just a fraction of the most amazing arachnids that can be found on our shores and many different species can be found with even more surprising habits. Like all animals, spiders are a fundamental part of our ecosystems and should be treated with respect. We must all learn to coexist alongside these amazing creatures.

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