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Page last updated at 02:45 GMT, Saturday, 5 December 2009
Huge UK cave spiders 'sent' home
By Jody Bourton
Earth News reporter


The adventurous arachnids will be going back underground (video provided by the National Trust)

A colony of huge cave spiders are finally heading home after 10 years.

The spiders have been squatting in a disused building in the Yorkshire Dales after escaping from a nearby cave, hidden in scientists' equipment.

Volunteers and staff from the National Trust's Malham Tarn estate in North Yorkshire are now transporting the spiders back to their natural home.

Measuring seven centimetres across, the cave spiders are amongst the largest spiders found in the UK.

"The time has come for the cave spiders to be relocated back to their natural homes," says Martin Davies, National Trust property manager for the Yorkshire Dales in the UK.

The old house is due to be renovated for use by visiting schoolchildren and walkers, Mr Davies explains.

Stow away

Ten years ago, a team of archaeologists from the University of Bradford carried out a major survey of the nearby Chapel Fell cave.

At the end of each day, they took their equipment to a nearby house to store overnight.

In doing so, they accidently carried with them spiders hiding among the equipment.

cave spiders
Squatting in a house for a decade

From then on, the spiders successfully set up a new colony in the small dark building.

The cave spiders Meta menardi and the related Meta bourneti are rarely seen beyond their natural habitat of caves and tunnels because of their aversion to light.

They are active hunters and normally feed on small insects.

Although harmless, they can occasionally bite if provoked.

Homeward bound

The spiders are collected using a contraption called a 'pooter' which sucks the spider up safely into a container.

The spiders are then put into individual plastic boxes and released back into the darkness of the caves.

More than 150 spiders will make the short journey back to where they belong.

Once back in the caves, the spiders won't be forgotten, Mr Davies says.

"We have plans to use a small outbuilding as a spider house, with a window on their mysterious world."

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