One of the stars of this year’s Autumnwatch on the BBC, is being given a helping hand by Buglife, the RSPB and other conservation organisations in Dorset. The Ladybird spider is one of our most spectacular spiders, but also one of our most threatened.
The Ladybird spider (Eresus sandaliatus) was thought to be extinct in Britain for over 70 years, until it was rediscovered in 1980. Since then no other populations have been found. Across the rest of its range in northern Europe, the Ladybird spider is only locally common in a very few places.
This spider is so endangered in the UK that it is possible to count each individual spider living in Dorset, where it has managed to keep a small but determined eight-legged foothold.
Ladybird spiders do not naturally travel far and so the Ladybird Spider Project has been giving them a helping hand. Spiders have been carefully released onto new sites – increasing the number of Ladybird spider populations in Dorset from one to twelve. One of these sites is the RSPB reserve at Arne – where the latest series of Autumnwatch is based. One population has already been successfully established at Arne, and next spring Buglife and the RSPB will be releasing spiders into two new areas.
Andrew Whitehouse, Buglife’s South West Manager said “Arne is a spectacular place for wildlife, and is large enough to accommodate more Ladybird spiders. We have collected spiders from a donor site, which will be cared for over the winter and released in the spring. This work is essential to give this special spider a bright future.”
The Ladybird Spider Project is a partnership between Buglife, the RSPB, Natural England, the Forestry Commission, Dorset Wildlife Trust, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Dudley Zoo, the British Arachnological Society, the National Trust, the Ministry of Defence, and Life-Forms.
This phase of work is being supported by The Veolia Environmental Trust, who have awarded a grant of £16,364 through the Landfill Communities Fund. The project is also supported by The Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust, the project partners, and by individual donations.