A rare species of spider has been found by two volunteers from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The two environmentalists were initially looking for butterflies at the Radipole Lake Nature Reserve in Weymouth, Dorset, when they spotted a red arachnid on the flowers located near a pathway.
The name of the spider species found is Hypsosinga heri. It has been more than 100 years since it was last seen in the UK, with the second to the last sighting recorded in 1898 and the last ever in 1912. Both spiders were seen at Wicken Fen near Ely, Cambridgeshire. The spider family was about to be eliminated from the list of British species.
"Sara Cookson, Jacquie Rayner and myself were nearing the end of a butterfly survey last summer when we saw a very small brightly colored spider on flowers near the side of one of the nature reserve's paths," recalled volunteer Allan Nelson. He then took photos of the spider, consulted his guide book and uploaded the picture in an Internet forum of the Spider Recording Society to ask for help in identifying the species of the arachnid.
The discovery was made in May but it was only recently that the British Arachnological Society confirmed that the photograph of the spider submitted to them by the volunteers was indeed of the Hypsosinga heri.
"It has taken a while, but we were delighted that the spider was confirmed as Hypsosinga heri—or Harriet as we've called her," Neilson said.
The spiders discovered by the volunteer group were females. A few days ago, at Lodmoor reserve, females spiders were again found. Male spiders are yet to be discovered. Neilson, who noted other sightings this year in low to moderately tall plant areas near reeds, is now thinking of other locations where the spiders may also be located in.
Hypsosinga heri spiders are approximately 2 to 4 millimeters in length and are usually found on low-lying plants close to bodies of water.
The reserves of the RSPB are filled with natural wonders that can bring surprises to many, explains Tony Whitehead from the RSPB. They are glad to come across such stories that testify that through their efforts to create homes for natural creatures, they are not only providing for bird species but for spiders as well.
Whitehead also adds that since the reserve is situated in an urban area near houses, there may be other "Harriets" lurking in home gardens. People providing for nature through their backyards is a good indication that the public may be helping.