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Cave spider - arachnophobes beware!

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: General
Forum Name: Associated Fauna and Flora
Forum Description: A forum for plants, invertebrates and other animals associated with herpetofauna
Printed Date: 26 Oct 2020 at 9:46am
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 -

Topic: Cave spider - arachnophobes beware!
Posted By: Liz Heard
Subject: Cave spider - arachnophobes beware!
Date Posted: 27 Apr 2018 at 9:16pm
Hi all

While out looking for herps in a churchyard recently, i lifted a slab to reveal a drainage cavity with 2 big and shiny arachnids inside. I recognised them as Cave Spiders (Meta) by their size (second largest UK spider after Raft Spiders) and their bright, glossy bodies with banded legs.
Adult Cave Spiders hate light and live in the total darkness of caves, mines underground cavities (including man-made structures) and hollow trees.

However, there are two species so alike they can only be reliably separated by a microscope-wielding expert; Meta menardi and the rarer Meta bourneti. There are few records for either species; NBN currently has 269 for the former and just 20 for M. bourneti.

So i had one examined and was thrilled to learn it was Meta bourneti! Prior to mine, for Glos there was only an old, undated record from a different part of the county and another from the Glos/Worcs border in 2005.
Needless to say, i'm chuffed!


Cave Spiders - keep your eye out for them!


Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 27 Apr 2018 at 10:36pm
Great find, once in a lifetime so I can imagine how happy you are, but you are a braver man than me - I got bit by a false widow last year and nearly lost my thumb, worst pain I have ever had. I love my wildlife but you can keep spiders...

Don't tell me you just picked it up?

Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 28 Apr 2018 at 1:37am
!! Assuming your biter was confirmed as one of the False Widow bunch (Steatoda), i guess you had a particularly bad reaction then?
Despite tabloid best efforts at provoking panic with 'Deadly Spider Swarm munching it's way across the UK' type headlines, the scientists seem to be insisting that False Widow bites are usually no more serious than a bee sting.
How did it happen?

Since few enter their habitat and there aren't many hunting for them either (spiders are said to be massively under-recorded), it might be that Meta aren't so scarce - it's encounters with them that are.
Nice to have generated a new record for a beautiful (as spiders go!) species though. It's gleaming body looks like a gem stone.

No, although i've seen photos of people with Cave Spiders sat on their hands, i was a bit wary and used the old method of putting a receptacle over it then sliding a bit of card underneath!

Posted By: chubsta
Date Posted: 28 Apr 2018 at 9:44am
I was in bed, about 5am felt a small touch to the end of my left thumb and saw a spider scurry off, unfortunately didn't catch it. Didn't think much of it until about 2pm and it started to swell and hurt - a lot! I went to the hospital and they gave me antibiotics, by about 5pm I felt like my hand was being held in a flame. I have a lot of very strong painkillers because I was suffering kidney stones too at the time and they didn't touch this - I didn't mind the pain so much but it didn't subside at all, no matter what I threw at it. For about 24 hours I couldn't think straight, I couldn't believe just how much it was hurting. Eventually it subsided. Came back about a week later for about 48 hours, then two more times over the next month or so.

That was last October, I still don't have proper feeling in my thumb or first finger of left hand, and stay well clear of spiders.

It wasn't confirmed as a False Widow as I didn't have it, but no-one at the hospitals had seen anything like it before so could only presume based on media reports. Funnily enough a woman I work with was bitten about 5 years ago and she showed me the photos, it looked like her wrist was rotting and she confirmed the pain, I was glad I was only bitten on the thumb.

So, my advice is stay away from spiders, no matter how shiny and nice they look!

Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 28 Apr 2018 at 10:19am
Cue the reported adder bites in areas where they have never been recorded and are unlikely to occur. Always thought many could be spider bites. Had a couple of painful spider bites though nothing as bad as yours chubsta. Doesn't help with my arachnophobia much though! Fortunately restricted to confined spaces so I can still enjoy spiders in the field, at a distance and where I can run away easily LOL

Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 28 Apr 2018 at 10:37am
Given your job and location, could it have been an exotic species accidentally imported (perhaps stowed away in some bananas like in every corny story)?

Think i read there are around 12 UK spider species that have the ability to bite through human skin (nearly all spiders are venomous).

Posted By: will
Date Posted: 28 Apr 2018 at 12:28pm
Well done Ben, I am very jealous, having a soft spot for big spiders - I've only ever seen Meta in France.  Another great spider from the continent is Segestria florentina (Mediterranean tube web spider).  My favourite place for them is the Houses of Parliament, kind of appropriate for a place filled with politiciansWink

Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 12 May 2018 at 1:42pm
Thanks Will. I wondered - given your enthusiasm for dragonflies - if this post would interest you!

Posted By: Tom Omlette
Date Posted: 17 May 2018 at 9:51pm
that's a beautiful beast ben!

Posted By: Liz Heard
Date Posted: 18 May 2018 at 8:00am
Thanks Tim. By the way, when are we going to see some more of your fab photos of midlands herps then?

Talking of pix, loved those spider ones Will, especially the 'Big Ben' one - what a cracker!

Posted By: will
Date Posted: 18 May 2018 at 9:04am
Thanks BenBig smile !

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