For the first time, Northern Ireland became a spot for discovery of rare species of house spider, as one conservation officer discovered an uncommon type of funnel-web spider in a tiny break of a cliff near a railway track.

Malthonica silvestris is closely related to the house spider; the difference is that this specie is neither poisonous nor dangerous at all. These species are said to be similar to the common spiders roaming around the household.

The spider was discovered by Adam Mantell, a Buglife officer in Northern Ireland. Buglife is a charity foundation for the conservation of insects. He was then conducting some surveys when he found the little critter.

In Scotland and England, the spiders are usually found in areas where there is damp woodland. In the Republic of Ireland, the species have only been noted in Cork.

Uncommonly, the funnel-web spider was discovered by Mantell under the warm and sunny County Antrim. The spider was said to be situated in a silk-covered tube in a rock rift in Whitehead. Mantell said it looked as if it was enjoying the slightly warm situation of its habitat.

"Not only is this the first record for Northern Ireland, but it is very rare across the rest of Ireland too," said Mantell. He added that it is superb to have rare good news like this amid the decline of about two of three bug species and the disappearance of wildlife from the countryside. For him, it is brilliant to include another spider in the census of species discovered in Northern Ireland.

Whether the spider has been living in Northern Ireland for a long period of time or it has just newly arrived due to the warmer summers is still a point of question.

Mantell said that such discovery can also help experts increase their knowledge and better understand climate change as invertebrates like this are among the first animals to exhibit responses to alterations in the climate.

Buglife is determined to influence more individuals to get interested and engage in activities that involve looking for and documenting sightings of insects, just like how bird and butterfly surveys are being performed.

Funnel-web spiders are named as such because the webs they make resemble a funnel. Through this uniquely shaped habitats, the spiders are able to make burrows and trap preys. The three families of spiders belonging to this category exhibit different characteristics. Some are completely harmless and some are among the deadliest spiders in the world.

Photo: Dennis van Zuijlekom | Flickr

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