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#Science

Spider, missing since 1912, rediscovered by RSPB volunteers

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Hypsosinga heri, the spider, was seen in Britain since 1912, but thanks to alert and eagle-eyed RSPB volunteers, it was rediscovered at the charity’s Radipole Lake Nature Reserve in Weymouth, Dorset, during a routine butterfly survey.

Prior to latest sighting, the only two previous accepted UK records of the spider were in 1898 and 1912 at Wicken Fen near Ely, and it was on the point of being removed from the British list.

RSPB volunteers Allan Neilson, Sara Cookson, and Jacquie Rayner spotted the small and brightly-coloured spider on flowers near the side of one of the reserve’s paths at the end of the butterfly survey.

“I took some photographs, checked my field guide and posted them to the Spider Recording Society’s web-forum asking for help. It took a while, but we were delighted that the spider was confirmed as Hypsosinga heri – or Harriet as we’ve called her!” Neilson said.

Earlier this year in May, two females and a second group of the spiders has been found a couple of miles away on the RSPB’s Lodmoor reserve making it a total of three sightings this year, but the surprising bit is that all the sightings have been of female spiders, which raises a question “where are the males?”

RSPB has revealed that its staff and volunteers will be looking out for more of these spiders and see if they could find males or clue to where they have all gone.

Tony Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB in the south west said: “Our nature reserves are always full of natural surprises, and it’s wonderful to hear stories like this where, in giving nature a home, we can provide not only for birds, but for spiders like Harriet. And, best of all, Radipole Lake is very much an urban reserve, bordered by houses, so who knows, maybe there are other Harriet’s or even a Harry in people gardens? In providing for nature in our back yards it’s good to think what we might be helping.”