Dead Man's Socks

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 3 October 2010 13:30

Don't worry, this is not a proposal to make another TV follow up of another Shane  Meadows movie. I have recently become fascinated by Purse-web Spiders Atypus affinis. I have still never seen one but yesterday I did find the web of one. I was told recently that the spiders are present in Woodvale Crematorium in central Brighton. The spiders need south facing slopes with dry bare ground and this habitat is provided at Woodvale, there is some nice chalk-grassland surviving there, it makes me wonder what my house was built on? What species once flew and crawled through the space that is now my home?

Anyway, I was told about this spider and it's fascinating life story and I would like to pass this on. It lives in a closed long silken tube (more like a sock than a purse) which is buried vertically in the ground with just the top (maybe 10 cm) sticking out.  There can be as much as 50 cm underground, they are real grave diggers! It lives at the bottom but when a none suspecting invertebrates crawls over the exposed section, it runs up and attacks it with its HUGE jaws. It then drags it through the web, devours it and then goes back up and fixes the hole it made. It is the only species in the sub-order in the UK and is quite unlike anything else. I would love to see one but I don't know how, other than digging one up, which  I wouldn't do as this would be destructive to the spider and might get you in trouble in a cemetery! They rarely leave the web so I'll just have to wait for a chance encounter. Anyway, second best is the photo of the web and knowing I was less than a metre from one! There are lots of pictures of them on Google and a video on YouTube. It's amazing to think they take four years to mature.

1 Response to "Dead Man's Socks"

Gill B Says:

Very impressive, but not for arachnophobes. I would love to see one too. I'm fascinated by spiders and would like to learn more about them. I wonder why so few have common names? I find it almost impossible to remember the scientific ones.

Post a Comment

Nature Blog Network