Spider Safari: In the House
Sally Le Page went to Cambourne to visit Brian Eversham, CEO of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust, and a massive spider enthusiast. They looked inside the Wildlife Trust’s offices at Cambourne to see what spiders live inside with us.
Sally - All right, so we've come inside. If you want to find spiders in your house, where's the best place to look?
Brian - Generally in dark corners and up against the edges of the ceilings.
Sally - Found one. Those are some very long legs.
Brian - Excellent. So that's a big plump female of the long-leg cellar spider. They produce a very loose tangled web along the edges of the ceiling where it joins the wall and her legs are incredibly long. So we're looking at a body less than a centimeter long, but individual legs, probably three or four centimeters and her hunting technique is to hold potentially dangerous prey at arms length, and then dive in very rapidly, stab it with her fangs gifting, injecting a very strong venom and then back off again. And this time of year her major food is probably those poor lost wandering male house spiders.
Sally - She's big in terms of length, but she's quite dainty. Whereas the house spiders are chunky bullies so she can take one of those on?
Brian - Yeah. So their leg span will be twice hers, their body size will probably be 8 or 10 times her body weight, but because she's got the long legs, strong silk, very strong venom, she will catch them, stab them, paralyze them, then wrap them up. And it's not unusual to see two or three males tied up in silk, dangling from the web of a fairly tiny and delicate-looking female cellar spider.
Sally - You say she's got strong venom and I am my fairly certain I have one living in my bedroom. Should I be worried?
Brian - Nope. I've tried very hard and never persuaded want to bite me. Oh, she's doing her thing!
Sally - Oh, oh she's wiggling!
Chris - Yeah. So the cellar spider has this technique of disappearing by spinning around rapidly in a web. So you can't see where her body is. I've just prodded her with a handle. And she's now dangling from the underside of the web spinning around in circles really fast. So she almost vanishes. You can just see the body move in a circle. The legs are no longer visible. And if you were a predator, you wouldn't know where to go.
Sally - And what kind of things are her predators?
Brian - Yeah, mostly cleaners, I would think. A feather dusters perhaps out of doors, then it would be birds and mammals.