Ladybird Spider Project

Ladybird Spider (Eresus sandaliatus) © S Dalton

The Ladybird Spider (Eresus sandaliatus) was thought to be extinct in Britain for over 70 years until it was rediscovered in 1979. Since then no other populations have been found and across the rest of its range in northern Europe the Ladybird Spider is only locally common in very few places.

View more information

Quick Facts:

  • Name of Project: Ladybird Spider (Species Recovery Project)
  • Duration of Project: Spring 2022 – March 2026
  • Location of Project: Dorset Heaths, England
  • Species benefiting from Project:  Ladybird Spider (Eresus sandaliatus)
  • Project funded by:  Natural England

The Ladybird 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.

The Ladybird Spider depends on lowland heathland – and this is its main problem. Heathland has suffered drastic declines over the last 100 years or so, being ploughed up for agriculture and forestry, or built on.

The spider’s long life-cycle, very specific requirements and the fact that it is not good at dispersing and colonising new sites, have all added to its vulnerability.

Ladybird Spider (Eresus sandaliatus) © Ian Hughes Ladybird Spider (Eresus sandaliatus) © Ian Hughes

What will the project do?

When the Ladybird Spider was first rediscovered in 1980, the last remaining site supported only a few spiders, but successful habitat management has enabled the number of spiders here to increase and the population is now more secure. Since 2000, over 20 populations have been established on Dorset heathland. Spiders have been carefully released onto new sites – increasing the number of Ladybird Spider populations in Dorset, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Buglife have been conserving the Ladybird Spider for many years, working as part of the Ladybird Spider Partnership; our projects include the Back from the Brink project which ran from 2017-2020.

Work to date has focused on introducing spiders to suitable habitat across a wide area – in part to reduce the risk of losing multiple populations to catastrophic events such as fire. This has been successful for most sites, however, this approach has resulted in small and isolated populations which could be at risk of local extinction. The prospect of natural recolonisation is remote.

Ladybird Spider burrow © Andrew Whitehouse Ladybird Spider burrow © Andrew Whitehouse

Buglife are currently working with the RSPB at their Arne reserve to support them in their Ladybird Spider conservation work. We are training a small number of carefully selected volunteers on how to survey for and manage areas for these very special spiders. We are also working with the RSPB to establish a “super-population” of Ladybird Spiders at Arne that can be self-sustaining and helping to safeguard this species for the future.

How can you support the project?

For now, take a look at this amazing video of the Ladybird Spider, filmed for Springwatch.

You can also learn more about Britain’s wonderful spiders with the British Arachnological Society 

Ladybird spider (Eresus sandaliatus) © S Dalton Ladybird spider (Eresus sandaliatus) © S Dalton

The Ladybird Spider (Species Recovery Project) is generously funded by Natural England