I was delighted to learn yesterday that a new colony of ladybird spiders is being introduced to the Arne Nature Reserve, on the shores of Poole Harbour in Dorset. Arne is a fabulous place that we visit for our Environmental Discovery Courses. Whilst it’s an RSPB reserve, it’s great for seeing far more than the diverse range of birds (including the rare Dartford warbler)
that live on or visit the reserve at different times of year.
There are large herds of sika deer roaming the woods and saltmarshes and huge colonies of wood ants that make you think there really could be could be a million ants on the planet for every human being. There are pools and ponds, which in summertime are constantly buzzed by dragon- and damselflies and if you look closely, you might even see a huge raft spider (well, huge by the UK’s standards, at least!) on the surface of the pools. There’s a brilliant range of habitats, like heathland, sandy beach, woodland and farmland all within a couple of miles of circular walk.
And now, there are another thirty really interesting spiders to look out for! They spend most of their lives underground, but come to the surface to find a mate. They are black in colour for most of their lives, but males change to red with black spots when searching for a female to mate with, hence their name.
Back in 1994, there were as few as 56 ladybird spiders left in the UK, but thanks to captive breeding programmes, there are now around 1,000, which still makes them pretty rare! Thirty or so of them have just been released in the heathland at Arne. So in 2012, we could be in with a chance of spotting ladybird spiders when we take groups of young people to explore Arne whilst they are attending one of our Environmental Discovery Courses. That would be brilliant for all of us. I’ve certainly never seen a ladybird spider up close before except in a photo. If you’re headed that way this summer, keep your eyes open!