Twelve common spiders of urban Nottinghamshire
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In recent years, our urban houses and gardens have assumed a role of greater importance to an array of wildlife. Not only do they provide invertebrates with a suitable habitat in which to breed, our gardens also create corridors that allow them much easier movement through our towns and cities.
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Obviously, many invertebrates have wings that enable greater distances to be covered in a single flight, than are required for moving from garden to garden. However, invertebrates such as Spiders don't have such methods, so have perfected their own method of flight known as 'ballooning'.

Ballooning is most often performed by small spiders, climbing to a high point like a fence post, before releasing a strand of silk upwards into the air until the wind catches it and the spider simply lets go. The silk thread acts as the balloon to provide lift and so any miles can be covered in this way, allowing spiders to move to new habitats.

Spiders of house and garden

But a number of spiders have no real requirement for a specific habitat and are quite at home living in and around our houses and gardens.

 
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By building houses and office blocks, humans have created artificial habitats replicating more natural habitats. Our house walls, windows and roofs now replace cliffs and outcrops, where rows of gardens act as flower-rich meadows, scrub or woodland. As urban areas are typically two or three degrees warmer than rural locations, many insects and spiders requiring a warmer climate are finding our towns and cities ideal and several southern species are increasing their range and have colonised Nottinghamshire in recent years.

Of the number of spiders now occurring in many Nottinghamshire gardens, selecting just twelve of the most likely to be seen was difficult. In the end, we think we have it about right. The twelve spiders we have selected (even those with visually identical confusion species) are the commonest and most likely to be found in and around houses and gardens within Nottinghamshire.

Identification

Spider identification is difficult and for many species, practically impossible without the use of having the specimen under a microscope. Please remember that this is a guide to species only, so be careful when attempting any identification from photographs.

     
1. Pholcus phalangioides (Fuesslin, 1775)
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Description: Often referred to as the Daddy Long-legs Spider, Pholcus phalangioides is found in cupboards, the dark corners of rooms and cellars of houses, where it makes a fairly large tangle web.

Occurrence: Found indoors all year round.

Similar species: One of three structurally similar and distinctive, very long-legged species, this is the most likely to be found in Nottinghamshire.

Nottinghamshire distribution: P. phalangioides seems to be widespread across much of urban Nottinghamshire and one which we certainly find regularly. Often found in shops, toilet blocks and garden centres etc, we have recorded this spider from a number of indoor sites, even finding the occasional specimen along hospital corridors.

 
 
     
2. Enoplognatha ovata (Clerck, 1757)
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Description: Sometimes called the Candy-stripe Spider, Enoplognatha ovata is an attractive and often distinctly marked spider. Some specimens are entirely cream/white, but more colourful examples have red or pink markings on the abdomen.

Occurrence: Occurs as an adult during the Summer months, from June to September.

Similar species: Records from gardens are most likely to be this species, but there are similar species with a more restricted distribution in Nottinghamshire. Accurate identification ideally requires having a specimen under the microscope.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Common and widespread across the county. Found on vegetation in a range of habitats, especially gardens. Webs are often located underneath or among the flowerheads of various Umbelliferous plants.

 
 
     
3. Steatoda bipunctata (Linnaeus, 1758)
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Description: Commonly called the Rabbit Hutch Spider, after this spider's habit of spinning a scaffold web in the dark corners of hutches, chicken sheds and outbuildings. Generally a dark looking spider, often showing a deep chestnut brown abdomen with a broken white line running dorsally along its length.

Occurrence: Found all year round.

Similar species: There are several similar species including the False Widow Steatoda nobilis - spider who's reputation has been damaged by inaccurate (and incorrect) media reporting. Steatoda bipunctata is a smaller spider than other Flase Widows likely to be encountered in Nottinghamshire.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Common and widespread throughout the county, probably occuring on, or around most properties.

 
 
     
4. Linyphia triangularis (Clerck, 1757)
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Description: Linyphia triangularis is found in well vegetated habitats including gardens, where it spins a horizontal sheet web on low vegetation and bushes etc.The abdomen has variably dark markings and chevron-like patterns, with the caramel brown coloured Carapace (thorax) having a black margin and central stripe.

Occurrence: Occurs as an adult during the Summer months, with a peak in August and September.

Similar species: One of many similarly looking species, but by far the most likely to be found in urban gardens. Accurate identification really requires examining the specimen under a microscope.

Nottinghamshire distribution: A very common spider of all habitats including well planted gardens. Found throughout the county.

 
 
     
5. Metellina segmentata (Clerck, 1757)
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Description: Metellina segmentata is a well marked spider, showing a wide range of abdominal colouration and markings, though not always as well discerned as the above individual. Females can sometimes be pinkish, or orange in colour and are conspicuous sitting in the centre of their orb web spun on the foliage of bushes and herbaceous plants

Occurrence: Found as adults during the late Summer and early Autumn, mostly from August to October.

Similar species: Metellina segmentata is virtually identical to Metellina mengei, although the latter spider is more of a Spring species, which can help towards initial identification, but is not a guarantee of ID.

Nottinghamshire distribution: An abundant orb weaver which is found throughout Nottinghamshire. It is common in many urban gardens.

 
 
     
6. Araneus diadematus (Clerck, 1757)
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Description: Known as the Garden Spider or Garden Cross Spider, Araneus diadematus is one of the most familiar spiders to be found in gardens. The white cross markings on the abdomen is a reliable and consistant feature towards identification. There are numerous colour forms but most examples are usually some shade of brown or grey.

Occurrence: Adult between August and October, with juveniles being present over the rest of the year.

Similar species: Both Araneus marmoreus and Araneus quadratus are very similar, but (in Nottinghamshire at least) are unlikely to be found in most gardens.

Nottinghamshire distribution: An extremely common and widespread orb weaving spider. Found in all habitats across the county. Common in gardens.

 
 
     
7. Nuctenea umbratica (Clerck, 1757)
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Description: A common orb weaving spider which often evades detection in most people's gardens, due to its nocturnal habits. Nuctenea umbratica is usually found under the bark of old trees, or in cracks along garden fences, where it constructs a circular web.

A large species with a distinctly flattened abdomen. There is a wavy edged area of solid black dorsally, edged in white, containing four pairs of distinct depressions making identification relatively easy.

Occurrence: Adult females can be found all year round.

Similar species: Is unlikely to be mistaken for any other species.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Widespread and common, even in urban areas. The large orb webs are often the only indication of this spider's presence at many sites.

 
 
     
8. Zygiella x-notata (Clerck, 1757)
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Description: A very common spider, often known as the Missing Sector Orb Weaver, after its habit of leaving a section of web free of spiral threads. Zygiella x-notata is most often found around houses and buildings, usually around guttering, door and window frames etc. The abdomen is variably patterned and marked, often indistinctly.

Occurrence: One of the few spiders to remain active throughout the year, even during the depths of Winter.

Similar species: Zygiella atrica is similar and visually identical, but occurs in more open locations where it can often be found on Gorse bushes.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Widespread. A very common species of urban areas and probably present on virtually every building and man made structure in the county.

 
 
     
9. Tegenaria gigantea (Chamberlain & Ivie, 1935)
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Description: Needs little introduction as Tegenaria gigantea is very likely to be the largest spider to occur around houses and deserved of its common name of House Spider. It builds a large sheet web with a tubular retreat in houses, garden sheds and garages, but it is the long-legged male that is most often seen, when it ventures into houses during the Autumn. The legs are dark brown, the carapace variegated with grey and black and the light brown abdomen is intricately marked and patterned.

Occurrence: Females can be found all year, but males are frequent in the Autumn months and die after mating.

Similar species: Other Tegenarias are similar, but Tegenaria gigantea is the commonest around houses. Tegenaria agrestis is lighter in colour and found under stones and items of rubbish on wasteground, but is likely to be present in some gardens.

Nottinghamshire distribution: A common spider of a range of habitats, but usually encountered in the more urbanised areas of Nottinghamshire.

 
 
     
10. Amaurobius similis (Blackwall, 1861)
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Description: A common spider, utilising holes in the brickwork of walls and houses, window frames and on fences, to construct a charcteristic tubular, cribellate web of bluish white silk. All

Occurrence: Females are found throughout the year, but both sexes reach peak numbers in the Autumn.

Similar species: Amaurobius similis is visually identical to Amaurobius fenestralis and requires examination of the specimen under the microscope to be certain of identity. Amaurobius ferox is generally darker (sometimes almost totally black) and a more robust spider.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Probably common around houses and other buildings throughout Nottinghamshire and possibly more restricted in range than Amaurobius fenestralis.

 
 
     
11. Scotophaeus blackwalli (Thorell, 1871)
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Description: A common spider which is active after dark and most often encountered hunting the internal walls of houses, when the light is switched on late at night. Sometimes known as the Mouse Spider, Scotophaeusus blackwalli is quite easily recognised (despite lacking any obvious markings) by it's silvery abdominal hairs. A fast moving species.

Occurrence: Found indoors throughout the year, but outside, activity is confined to the warmer months of the year.

Similar species: There are a range of other spiders to cause identification problems, but this will usually be the species found inside houses.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Considerably more widespread than our distribution map would suggest and no doubt under-recorded. A spider of more urban areas of Nottinghamshire

 
 
     
12. Salticus scenicus (Clerck, 1757)
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Description: A small, active and charismatic spider with distinctive dark brown to black chevron markings on the abdomen, leading to its common name of Zebra Spider. Salticus scenicus is common on the walls of houses in urban areas, but is found in other habitats.

Occurrence: Will be active from the first warm days of March, through to late Autumn.

Similar species: Unlikely to be confused with any other species, Salticus scenicus is extremely similar to the less widespread Salticus cingulatus, which tends to dominate in more rural areas.

Nottinghamshire distribution: Found throughout Nottinghamshire, with most records coming from urban areas. This is the most likely of all Salticidae (Jumping Spiders) to be found on houses.

 
 
     
     
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