Nature with Nik Mitchell: Thanet’s exotic Wasp Spider

The Wasp Spider Photo Nik Mitchell

Thanet nature expert Nik Mitchell runs the Wildlife Conservation in Thanet page on facebook

We are lucky to have one of the most impressive looking spiders  living here in Thanet.

There are about 660 different species of spider in the UK and the wasp spider has to be the most exotic. They do largely inhabit the Mediterranean but in the mid 2000s they found themselves here in England and although rare they have now colonised Thanet.

It’s easy to see why this species is called the Wasp spider, they mimic the coloration of a wasp. Their appearance is their defence mechanism. By disguising themselves as a wasp predators will likely leave them well alone believing them to be a feisty wasp and not an easy meal.

The web of this spider is also easily recognisable, they have a single zig-zag pattern of silk through the centre and it actually reflects UV light to attract pollinating insects to its trap.

I took these photos in Ramsgate and they are of the female Wasp Spider. Females are much larger than males, between 14-17mm, males are only between 4 and 6mm. This size difference (sexual dimorphism) is common with arachnids.

Mating is an extremely dangerous game for the male wasp spider. Like many species of spider, the females may eat the males. The brave males will wait on the outskirts of a female’s web until she sheds her skin and therefore has softer jaws meaning they are not at as much risk, but the majority of the time the females still eat the males whilst they are mating.

If you’re lucky enough to spot one of these beautiful spiders, be amazed rather than scared because they are of course harmless like the vast majority of our arachnids.

Look out for them in knee high scrub at Pegwell nature reserve.