A major conservation programme organised by a partnership of leading conservation bodies and landowners as part of Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme has meant that the ladybird spider has made an incredible journey back from the brink of extinction in England.
In 1994 it was thought that there were only 56 ladybird spiders left in their one remaining stronghold in Dorset, despite being a protected species in Britain under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Following these recent efforts, the latest ‘web count’ has revealed that there are now around 1,000 of the insects alive and spinning.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, said: ‘Heathland habitats have become increasingly fragmented and degraded in recent decades, placing the fate of many of our species in the balance. The success of the Ladybird spider recovery programme shows what can be done and we are delighted at the very hopeful signs that England’s most elusive spider is on the road to recovery.’
The ladybird spider is so named because of the male’s red markings during the mating season, in early springtime. As the English colony is vulnerable, a small number of spiders were imported from a nature reserve in Jutland to get experience of rearing them, but interestingly only the late Gerald Durrell has ever managed to breed the spider in captivity.