Spiders in Dumfries & Galloway 2015-16

by Bob Merritt, SRS Area Organiser for VCs 72, 73 and 74

The recording of spiders in Dumfries and Galloway has picked up a lot in the last couple of years and several thousand records have been sent to DGERC and to the national Spider Recording Scheme (SRS) during this period, including many additions to our vice-county lists.

Spiders possess a number of attributes which make them ideal subjects for study: there are a lot of them, they can be found throughout the year and they inhabit virtually every terrestrial habitat from mountain tops to coastal strandlines.  About 670 species have been found in Britain to date, with 449 in Scotland and 328 in Dumfries & Galloway.  I would guess that there are about another 25-30 species awaiting discovery in our region.

Only one spider is truly aquatic: the Water Spider Argyroneta aquatica.  It was recorded in 2016 for the first time in Dumfriesshire at Upper Loch, Lochmaben, and Capenoch Loch, Penpont, and for the second time in Kirkcudbrightshire at Barean Loch, Colvend.  It constructs an underwater, silken, bell-shaped retreat, filled with air, to which it brings its aquatic invertebrate prey for consumption.

The Zebra Spider Salticus scenicus is often found on window sills and the sides of buildings.  It is one of the jumping spiders, is about 6 mm in length and catches its prey by stealth, with its final action being a cat-like pounce aided by excellent binocular vision from its huge forward-facing eyes.

The rarest spider newly recorded in Dumfries & Galloway last year is the Cloud-living Spider Semljicola caliginosus.  This globally rare money spider, a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, is found sparingly in wet places at a few locations in northern England and Scotland, mostly on high ground.  In August 2016, and again in November, I recorded this species in a sedge-swamp at Shiel Loch, about 8 kms south-west of Sanquhar.  Also in November I found it at Grassyard Loch, near Hightae, Lochmaben, amongst dense Reed Sweet-grass Glyceria maxima.  Money spiders typically spin a small horizontal sheet web for capturing prey.

Last year a photo of a cave spider taken by Nic Coombey at Torrs Cave, Kirkcudbright Bay, in July was passed to me.  As this could be either of two species, only one of which has been recorded in our region, I visited the site and found several cave spiders Meta menardi at the back of the cave in total darkness.  I noticed many mosquito-like flies which, caught in orb webs spun between rock outcrops, no doubt provided the spiders with much of their prey.  The spiders are large, with adults having a leg-span of up to 5 cms.  The silken egg sacs, suspended from the cave roof, are unmistakeable and are sometimes the first indication that cave spiders are present.

Another uncommon spider reported in 2016 was Arctosa perita, a wolf spider photographed by Buzz Clark on sand dunes at Preston Merse, Southerness, in September.  The cryptic pattern on its body helps conceal the spider from predators.  It is robustly built and chases down and overpowers its prey without the need for a web.  When not hunting, it lives in a silk-lined burrow in the sand.

Additions to vice-county lists, 2015-16

Dumfriesshire (vc72):

a crab spider Xysticus sabulosus (NT) *
a crab spider Xysticus ulmi *
a jumping spider Neon robustus (NS) *
a long-jawed spider Tetragnatha striata *
a money spider Baryphyma trifrons
a money spider Bathyphantes setiger (NS)
a money spider Centromerus arcanus
a money spider Diplocephalus cristatus
a money spider Floronia bucculenta
a money spider Halorates distinctus (NS)
a money spider Kaestneria dorsalis
a money spider Meioneta mossica (NS) *
a money spider Prinerigone vagans *
a money spider Satilatlas britteni (NS)
Cloud-living Spider Semljicola caliginosus (EN) *
a money spider Taranucnus setosus (NS)
a money spider Walckenaeria nodosa (NS)
a running crab spider Philodromus cespitum
a six-eyed spider Segestria senoculata
a wolf spider Pirata hygrophilus
an orb-weaver spider Araneus quadratus
an orb-weaver spider Hypsosinga albovittata (NS) *
an orb-weaver spider Hypsosinga pygmaea
an orb-weaver spider Larinioides patagiatus (NS) *
Water Spider Argyroneta aquatica

Kirkcudbrightshire (vc73):

a comb-footed spider Theridion mystaceum
a long-jawed spider Tetragnatha striata
a money spider Erigone capra (NR) *
a money spider Halorates distinctus (NS) *
a money spider Taranucnus setosus (NS) *
a money spider Walckenaeria furcillata (NS) *
a wolf spider Pirata piscatorius (NS)

Wigtownshire (vc74):

a money spider Agyneta decora
a money spider Agyneta olivacea (NS)
a money spider Ceratinella brevis
a money spider Meioneta saxatilis sens. str.
a money spider Metopobactrus prominulus
a money spider Micrargus apertus
a money spider Tallusia experta
a money spider Trichopternoides thorelli
a money spider Walckenaeria vigilax

Key to abbreviations and symbols above

* new to Dumfries & Galloway
EN – Endangered
NT – Near Threatened
NR – Nationally Rare
NS – Nationally Scarce
(These status categories are provisional, awaiting affirmation by JNCC)

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