Elusive cave spider found at one of Britain’s most popular nature reserves


An elusive cave spider has been discovered at RSPB Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk. Visitors to the reserve have been flocking to see the European Cave Spider (Meta menardi), which isn't often seen because it lives in the dark. The spider, which has a body no longer than 15mm long, is among the largest spiders in the UK. Cave spiders live in total darkness and are usually found in sites with no daylight, such as cellars, long tunnels and caves — hence their name. They eat woodlice, flies and other small insects.

Cave Spider, Minsmere (Jon Evans).

Ian Barthorpe from RSPB Minsmere said: "Although cave spiders are probably not uncommon, because of their habitat requirements of total darkness they're not often seen and so are very under-recorded. No-one really knows how many we have in the UK, so finding one here at Minsmere is a real treat!"

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The spider was discovered in a shed close to the visitor centre on the reserve almost two weeks ago but RSPB staff have been trying to verify the species before going public. Visitors can get up close and personal with the spider by requesting a viewing at the reserve's visitor centre. The female spider is guarding a white, cotton-wool-like ball, which is her egg case and contains up to 300 eggs. She will watch over the egg case until her death, then next spring the baby spiders, called spiderlings, will emerge. Spiderlings are attracted to light when they first appear, to help them find new areas to colonise. Ian continued: "This spider won't be around for much longer — she's done all the hard work and will soon die — so anyone who wants to see her better come soon."

Cave Spider, Minsmere (Jon Evans).

Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk is one of the RSPB's flagship sites and is one of the best places for wildlife in the UK. The reserve features wonderful woodland, wetland and coastal scenery, rare birds breeding and calling in on their migrations, shy wildlife such as Otters, the booming call of Bitterns in spring, beautiful bugs and colourful wildflowers in summer. For more information about Minsmere and other RSPB reserves, visit www.rspb.org.uk.

Written by: RSPB