The arachnid in question is the ladybird spider — named for the bright red bodies, covered in black spots, of the mature males. They’re known for building silk-lined tubes and silk canopies, which they decorate with the prized remains of eaten beetles and ants, a bit like mounting a stag’s head on your wall.
The striking bug was on the brink of extinction in the mid 90s when a single colony of just 56 spiders was left in the UK. Since then, conservationists have striven to spread the critter further afield, and on Aug. 11 they introduced it to the RSPB’s Arne reserve in Dorset.
This bug hub is one of the most diverse insect habitats in the country, housing 240 species of spider and hundreds of insect species. It’s home to the threatened silver studded blue butterfly, the Purbeck mason wasp (which is only found in Dorset) and the Roesel’s bush cricket (which was discovered on the site last year).
Conservationists came up with a rather low-tech method of transferring the spiders. They plopped the ladybird arachnids into empty plastic water bottles, filled with heather and moss. Turns out, the bottle is the perfect shape and size for spider nests, and can be buried in holes in the ground so the spiders can colonize the nearby area.
Toby Branston, RSPB Arne warden, said, “Arne is an amazing place for bugs and this is the best time of year to see and hear them. To be introducing such a rare new species here is very exciting, and I hope we can help it to spread further.”