Bugblog has curled under a dry leaf and enjoyed an extended period of dormancy. The new year has brought some interesting invertebrates so I foresee some blog activity in the next few days. In a trip to the garden centre, a little spider dangled from the ceiling. Something called my attention: its front legs. They were long and robust, and adorned with dark tufts of hairs. The spider held them forward, using them as feelers as it moved. It reminded me of an orb web spider, but not one I had seen before, so I posted a photo on Twitter asking for help. Within minutes, Chris @BHWWildlifeGdn answered:
@aBugBlog uloborus plumipes? commonly known as the garden centre spider
— Chris (@BHWildlifeGdn) January 19, 2015
A close up of the spider in my hand, to give you a sense of scaleAnd so it was! This species has been expanding in the UK since the early 90s, when it was found in garden Centres in Reading, Liverpool and Southampton. In fact, it is not even mentioned in my spider field guides. Now it is widespread through most of England and large cities in Scotland, where it is almost exclusively found in or around heated greenhouses of garden centres, and is thought to have come with plants from Holland, where it was also found. The original distributions appears to be Africa and the Mediterranean, although it is expanding worldwide thanks to its ability to thrive in garden centres.
Uloborids are cribellate spiders, they brush their silk with a comb-like set of bristles in their rear legs making the silk sticky. This silk is so efficient immobilising prey that uloborids have lost their venom glands, not that this makes much of a difference to us, as this species is so small its fangs will be unlikely to break the skin.
I shall keep an eye for this unusual spider every time I visit a garden centre. It builds horizontal orb webs (although it is not a member of Araneae, but of Uloboridae) and sits underneath, resembling a fragment of dead leaf and their egg sacs are white and of an unusual shape too. Chris recommended looking around the lights.
Page for Uloborus plumipes at the Spider and Harvestman recording scheme. Here.