It’s been a truly hectic couple of weeks at uni, and it’s not looking like its going to ease off until the Easter break. I’ve taken some time off this weekend to get out, do some birding, find some new insects, and write this blog! It’s about a species that I’d been wanting to see for ages, and last week, saw my first. I’ve yet to find one for myself though…
The species I’ve chosen this week is a striking, and truly fascinating little spider, the Spitting Spider: Scytodes thoracica! Thanks very much to Will Hawkes (website: https://www.willhawkesphotography.com/) for finding this spider, showing it to me, and letting me use his amazing photos!
The Spitting Spider is a completely unmistakeable species! It is unique in many ways: firstly, it has only 6 eyes (the vast majority of spider species have 8), secondly, it’s the only spider in Britain with this colouration, and finally, its method of prey capture is amazing!
The Spitting Spider doesn’t move very fast, so can’t outrun its prey. It also doesn’t make a web. What it does do is creep up to its prey and squirt it with a venomous, sticky, silk-like substance, fired from its chelicerae at a range of around 10mm (pretty impressive when you consider the spider has a body length of 3-5mm!). It even waves its chelicerae from side to side as it squirts out the substance, in order to completely cover its prey, ensuring that it is gummed down. Prey consists of a variety of very small invertebrates, such as small flies. The Spitting Spider also uses its long-range weapon to ward off attacks from larger spiders.
Due to its small size and slow movements, Scytodes thoracica is no doubt under-recorded. That said, this species appears to be genuinely quite uncommon. Wills record looks to be the first one in West Cornwall! It is only found in and around houses, and has a distinct southerly distribution bias. Here is a link to the Spider Recording Scheme website for extra information, and a distribution map: http://srs.britishspiders.org.uk/portal/p/Summary/s/Scytodes+thoracica
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about what must be one of Britain’s coolest Arachnids. Keep your eyes peeled, they could be living right under your nose!