Fortunate and privileged. This is how I feel to be working for Buglife on Dorset’s most iconic species, which just happens to be the UK's rarest spider! NEVER in my conservation career did I think that I would be responsible for securing a sustainable future for one of the most stunning and spectacularly rare species I have ever worked on.
Spiders evoke a range of emotions, from total paralysing fear to awe. This is perhaps due to how they move - did you know their legs are hollow and contain fluid and muscle that flexes all joints, but only extends some? Or maybe it’s their appearance - there is an enormous variation in the shape, size and pattern of their abdomens/body, from pigment on the surface to the cuticle and hairs.
Spider’s importance in ecosystems is under expressed and I am elated to have the opportunity to inspire you about how significant the conservation of this exquisitely alluring spider is. Also, to educate you on how vulnerable they are to extinction and raise awareness that this order of arthropods are as important as invertebrates!
Since starting the project, I have been working alongside the UK’s expert on the Ladybird Spider, intensively learning and getting to grips with this specie’s delicate ecological requirements and conservation story.
The Ladybird Spider was thought to be extinct on the Dorset Heaths until its rediscovery by Peter Merrett and Rowland Snazell during a general heathland survey in 1980 - there had been NO records since 1906! Since then, tireless efforts have been made to retain the population that was rediscovered, and research conducted into its ecology and methods on expanding the population.
Our project will be establishing six new populations on our Dorset Heaths to reach the conservation target of twenty, continuing the annual monitoring to assess population status, and managing their habitats to enable the natural expansion of populations. Additional knowledge sharing of conservation practices will be shared with our partners and the public.
Equipped with an understanding of the Ladybird Spider’s fragile and fascinating lifecycle, its association with our Dorset Heathlands formerly dynamic mosaic structure, and the methods of how to conserve as well as expand our existing populations - I am ready to sing the importance of this rare beauty on top of the highest heathland knoll!