The Wildlife Information Centre

Biological data for south-east and part of central Scotland

A hoverfly (Meliscaeva auricollis)
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A brief introduction to Spiders


Spiders are invertebrates which belong to the group of animals known as Arachnids. Other Arachnids include mites, ticks, scorpions and pseudoscorpions. Spiders have a body divided into two parts: the front section is called the cephalothorax and the back part is the abdomen. They have eight legs, which are attached to the cephalothorax. There is also a pair of pedipalps, which look like small legs, at the front of the body. In most adult male spiders the pedipalps are swollen at the end, and contain complicated structures used in mating. Most British spiders have eight eyes (some have six) and the size and arrangement of the eyes is one of the features which can help distinguish different groups. At the end of the abdomen there are spinnerets. These are obvious in some groups of spiders, but much harder to spot in others. The spinnerets produce silk, which can be used for a number of purposes including making a web, wrapping up prey, protecting eggs, helping the spider move from one area to another and is even used for communication. All spiders have fangs, which they use to bite their prey with, and most have venom glands. However, the majority of spiders have fangs too small to penetrate human skin, and so are harmless.

Have a look around your house, or in the garden or park, and you will probably uncover several different types or 'species' of spider. Nearly 670 species of spider have been recorded in Britain; over 400 from Scotland. They are found in a variety of places from mountain tops to underground caves; in fact anywhere where there is prey on which they can feed. The variety of species, each with its own particular ecological requirements, makes spiders an excellent group to survey when assessing the health of habitats.



Have a look around your house, or in the garden or park, and you will probably uncover several different types or 'species' of spider. Nearly 670 species of spider have been recorded in Britain; over 400 from Scotland. They are found in a variety of places from mountain tops to underground caves; in fact anywhere where there is prey on which they can feed.

Spiders are extremely important to agriculture and horticulture. They are predators and their main prey are insects, many of which eat our crops and pester our livestock. Their populations can be huge: possibly in excess of five million per hectare in temperate grassland. Consequently, they can have an enormous impact on agricultural productivity and are essential natural pest controllers. In Britain alone, it has been estimated that spiders eat more than the weight of the human population in insects each year!

For more information visit the British Arachnological Society’s website: www.britishspiders.org.uk


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