Horrid Ground-weaver Project

Horrid Ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus) © Tom Thomson (CC BY 2.0)

The Horrid Ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus) is one of the rarest invertebrates in the UK; it may also be one of the rarest spiders in the world!

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Quick Facts:

  • Name of Project:  Horrid Ground-weaver (Species Recovery Project)
  • Duration of Project: Summer 2023 – March 2026
  • Location of Project: Plymouth
  • Species benefiting from Project:  Horrid Ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus)
  • Project funded by:  Natural England

The Horrid Ground-weaver is a tiny money spider with a body length of about 3mm. It is endemic to the UK, and has only ever been found in three places in the entire world, all within a small area of Plymouth, in South West England. It is listed by the IUCN as a Critically Endangered species.  The spider’s name comes from the fact that its body and legs are rather hairy – the Latin origin for the word horrid is bristly.

The spider was discovered as new to science in 1989 by R.A Stevens.

One of the three known sites has already been lost to development, and another has been regularly threatened. All sites are either in or close to limestone quarries where spiders have been found underneath rocks and amongst leaf litter. Because the spider is known from so few sites, much is still not known about it.

Horrid Ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus) © Tom Thomson (CC BY 2.0) Horrid Ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus) © Tom Thomson (CC BY 2.0)

What will the project do?

In 2015 Buglife orchestrated a successful campaign to save one of the Horrid Ground-weaver sites from development.

The Crowdfunding effort that ran alongside the campaign, along with funding from the Mohammed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund helped us to learn more about the ecology of the spider, and also to discover the third site.

In 2017, Buglife also worked with Plymouth City Council to reroute and raise a new cycle path to avoid disturbing any of the spider’s habitat at a site in Billacombe.


Plymouth Plymouth Horrid Ground-weaver site © Andrew Whitehouse

We are now looking to further our knowledge of this rare and wonderful creature, and will be undertaking further surveys, trialling new methods and searching new sites to see what else we can discover about the Horrid Ground-weaver.

The project will help us to better understand the ecology of the Horrid Ground-weaver – where it can be found in the Plymouth and perhaps elsewhere in Devon and how we can best conserve these populations for the future.

How can you support the project?

For now, take a look at this amazing video of the Horrid Ground-weaver, filmed by John Walters.

Horrid Ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus) © John Walters Horrid Ground-weaver (Nothophantes horridus) © John Walters

More information about money spiders can be found on the British Arachnological Society website

The Horrid Ground-weaver (Species Recovery Project) is generously funded by Natural England

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