Web of intrigue

For many people, the idea of handling a spider would fill them with dread. But ecologists in Papworth have been moving 100 rare breed spiders from a disused air raid shelter in the village. The cave spiders (meta bourneti) were discovered in August on lan

For many people, the idea of handling a spider would fill them with dread. But ecologists in Papworth have been moving 100 rare breed spiders from a disused air raid shelter in the village.

The cave spiders (meta bourneti) were discovered in August on land near Papworth Hospital earmarked for housing, and are being moved to two new sites. Developers David Wilson Homes has erected a shelter on the other side of the hospital for half the spiders while the remaining insects were taken to the cellar of the disused St Denis Church Local Nature Reserve, in East Hatley.

The spiders have never before been discovered in Cambridgeshire and have only been spotted at about 20 sites across the UK. They are one of Britain's biggest species of spiders with a leg span of two inches and live in total darkness.

The arachnids were moved one at a time because they are highly predatory and would have probably eaten each other if they had been moved together.

South Cambridgeshire District Council ecology officer Rob Mungovan said: "The developers have been very co-operative in helping to preserve this rare species."

Picture: ROBERT MUNGOVAN

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