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Embrace spiders this Halloween - the real nightmare would be a world without them

Last modified: 31 October 2014

Garden spider

It may look scary but the garden spider has many benefits to you and your garden

Image: Dante Munns

Halloween is here, and according to the RSPB, it happens to be the best time of year to see some of the UK's biggest spiders. 

With so many benefits to nature and your garden, it’s time to start to embrace our eight-legged friends rather than be running scared. 

There are some 650 species of spider in Britain totalling more than 750 million spiders crawling around our homes, gardens and countryside. Luckily, some of the frequently-seen spiders are actually quite distinctive and are at their biggest right now, which means larger and more obvious webs – perfect for Halloween. 

Venture into your garden and it’s more than likely you’ll come across the appropriately named garden spider. With a distinctive, white cross-shaped marking on their back, they help us by trapping or grabbing millions of insects each year, many of which are pests to crops and us. The females will have grown particularly large this time of year and create magnificent orb webs slung between vegetation. 

One of the wonders of the natural world

Other creepers that may be lurking behind the fireplace, under the sofa or in the bath include the giant house spider, its smaller cousin the house spider, and the spider that you’d have seen hanging upside down in its web in the upper corner of your rooms; the daddy long-legs spider. These spiders are wonderfully effective predators. Although no threat to us, they consume around 700,000 tonnes of invertebrates every year, which is a colossal amount of food. 

'If you were the size of a fly, sure, you’d have every reason to be afraid – very afraid – of spiders,' said Adrian Thomas, the RSPB's wildlife gardening expert and author of RSPB Gardening for Wildlife, 'but they really are one of the wonders of the natural world and are more afraid of you than you are of them. They might cause you to shudder, but the real nightmare would be a world without them.'

'Why not make your garden spider-friendly to help give your Halloween decorations a more lifelike feel this year?'

So why not make your garden spider-friendly to help give your Halloween decorations a more lifelike feel this year? Leaving pot plants on their side to create a sheltered micro-habitat or creating a dead log pile will encourage more wildlife into your garden and create a perfect home for nature.

If you’re after a spider with a little more charm than the one living down your plughole, then it’s worth visiting an RSPB reserve this Halloween. 

The ladybird spider, known for its bright red and black markings on the mature males, is extremely rare but can be round on the RSPB's Arne nature reserve after a reintroduction project in 2011. Its open heathland and old oak wood make Arne the perfect spider habitat, and is home to 240 species of spider. 

Amazing animals

Another fascinating spider found in the UK is the raft spider, which is one of the two largest spiders in the country. Raft spiders are semi-aquatic and live around acidic bogs and in wet grassland, especially where there are small pools of water. 

Adrian added: 'The ladybird and raft spider are only two of the many fascinating spiders that we have living in the UK, but there are so many more. Spiders are one of the few kinds of wildlife that we can easily get close to and one we should all embrace more. They are amazing animals and live fascinating and useful lives.'

There are many chilling Halloween themed events at RSPB reserves all over the country this half-term, where you’ll be able to learn and be spooked by all kinds of eerie wildlife. 

Giving Nature a Home is our campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. We are asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces - whether it by planting pollen-rich plants to attack bees and butterflies, putting up a nestbox for house sparrows, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species.

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.

Back to basics

Nature reserves