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A spider rediscovered in Dorset, thanks to the web!

Last modified: 15 June 2015

Hyposinga heri

Hypsosinga heri hasn't been seen in Britain since 1912

Image: Allan Neilson

Not since 1912 has the spider Hypsosinga heri been seen in the UK. 

But eagle-eyed RSPB volunteers were amazed to spot a female of the species while carrying out a routine butterfly survey at the charity’s Radipole Lake nature reserve in Weymouth, Dorset. The identification was confirmed by spider experts after the images were posted online.

RSPB volunteer Allan Neilson describes the discovery: 'Sara Cookson, Jacquie Rayner and myself were nearing the end of a butterfly survey last summer when we saw a very small brightly-coloured spider on flowers near the side of one of the reserve’s paths. 

'I took some photographs, checked my field guide and posted them to the Spider Recording Society’s web-forum asking for help. It took a while, but we were delighted that the spider was confirmed as Hypsosinga heri – or Harriet, as we’ve called her!'

Despite repeated surveys the only two previous accepted UK records of the spider were in 1898 and 1912 at Wicken Fen near Ely, and it was on the point of being removed from the British list. 

In May two females on the reserve and in the past few days a second group of the spiders has been found a couple of miles away on the RSPB’s Lodmoor reserve.

'So far, all we’ve found are females – where are the males?'

Allan added: 'This year we've had three more sightings of this tiny spider and we’re wondering where else might it be found?  But so far, all we’ve found are females – which begs the question: where are the males?”

Staff and volunteers on the reserve will be keeping a keen look-out over the coming months to see if they can answer Allan’s question.

Tony Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB in the south west said: 'Our nature reserves are always full of natural surprises, and it’s wonderful to hear stories like this where, in giving nature a home, we can provide not only for birds, but for spiders like Harriet. 

'And, best of all, Radipole Lake is very much an urban reserve, bordered by houses, so who knows, maybe there are other Harriet’s or even a Harry in people gardens? In providing for nature in our back yards it’s good to think what we might be helping.'

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.

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