01 August 2010.
Buglife and the British Arachnological Society have created artificial spider homes in veteran trees and two female spiders have taken up residence in them.
The Midas tree-weaver (Midia midas) measures just 2.5mm and has a rather specialised lifestyle, making it very difficult to find, which doesn’t really help the conservationists trying to save them. The spider has been found in just five locations in Britain and lives in bird nests, squirrel drays and leaf litter in ancient trees. It feeds on tiny invertebrates such as springtails, which live in rotten organic material.
|Artificial Midas tree-weaver (Midia midas) nest with webs © Mick Massie|
So how do you go about finding a spider which inhabits such hard to reach spots?
Tony Russell–Smith of the British Arachnological Society has come up with a novel, low-tech solution. By creating mock nests comprising a cluster of twigs, leaf litter and organic chicken manure in a net bag, artificial habitats were offered to the spiders, which were placed in pollarded veteran hornbeam, beech and oak trees in Epping Forrest, Essex
In June, the first batch of bags of material were sorted and amongst the hundreds of other bugs which had made their homes in the nests, including woodlice, millipedes, beetles and other spiders, were two female Midas tree-weavers, both collected from Oak pollards.
|Some of the team looking for Midas tree-weaver (Midia midas) © Mick Massie|
Tony Russell-Smith stated that, “Midia midas has not been collected in Britain for the past eight years and it is welcome news that it survives in Epping Forest. The fact that this rare species has colonised artificial nests within a month of their being placed in ancient pollards in the forest also provides hope that it will be possible to use this technique to monitor populations of this and other tree inhabiting species in the future”.