Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 11:57 UK

More spiders expected this autumn


Spider expert Dave Clarke: "Spiders are worth having around"

Conservationists say there could be more spiders and daddy longlegs than usual this autumn because of favourable breeding conditions.

Researchers at insect charity, Buglife, said last year's wet autumn meant the larvae of daddy longlegs had plenty of decaying plant matter to eat.

Experts also said this year's temperate summer had been good for spiders.

The charity says it will provide a good boost for declining insect populations and benefit other wildlife.

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife, said there had been a decline in the numbers of some species but 2009 could see the rate slowing down.

British biodiversity

Last year's damp autumn was good for daddy longlegs larvae or crane flies, which live just below the ground's surface.

Although the population is in general decline, Mr Shardlow said a "good number of eggs" had been laid and they should provide a boost to the number of daddy longlegs scuttling about in Britain's homes and gardens this autumn.

Daddy longlegs
Daddy longlegs are also known as crane flies

He said crane fly larvae helped keep the soil clean and the adults were food for birds and other animals.

Mr Shardlow said: "They are very important for biodiversity, without which we would not last very long.

"The last few years have been very bad for British biodiversity, with low numbers of moths, spiders and crane flies."

He said the lack of dramatic weather this summer would help spiders, which keep other bugs at bay.

"A house spider can eat 20 flies a year. They control the populations of other insects, and themselves provide food for a host of other wildlife.

"If we do have a good year for spiders in general, then it will just slow many years of alarming decline".

'Plentiful supply'

John Partridge, secretary of British Arachnological Society, said Buglife's predictions were good news for spider populations and bug enthusiasts, but not for those who had a fear of the creepy crawlies.

It's debatable whether some of our resident insect-eating birds would be able to survive the winter without a plentiful supply of spiders

"It is this time of year that people become more aware of them - it is the silly season for spiders. The garden spiders are getting fatter for laying eggs and bundles of tiny spiders start hatching," he said.

"Those who don't like them, just leave them alone and they will leave you alone. But if you can, get up close and have a look at how beautifully coloured they are."

He said there are some 600 species of spider in Britain and it was important to remember the service they provided.

Ian Dawson, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), said they were an important foodstuff.

"It's debatable whether some of our resident insect-eating birds, like the wren, would be able to survive the winter without a plentiful supply of spiders in leaf litter and under shrubbery," he said.

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