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Spiders: History

The first record of spiders in Staffordshire is 1686 by Dr. Robert Plot in his Natural History of Staffordshire (p 238):

"There are another ſort of inſects too de genere απιερωυ, which in ſome ſence alſo may be allowed to fly, ſuch are all Spiders (except thoſe long-legged ones we call Shepherds, which never ſpin any thred) which in October cheifly, will turn up their tailes and project one or more threds with that violence, that they shall reach croſs roomes, over rivers, and be faſtened betwixt trees, in plano Horizontis, at ſeveral fathoms diſtance; and ſometimes will dart them into the Air to ſuch a length, that the Spiders leaping up after them, will be carryed into the air, and there ſaile at the end of theſe threds to a great height and diſtance:"

The first identified records of spiders are to be found in "The Natural History of Staffordshire" (1844) by Robert Garner and this has formed the starting point for arachnology in the County.

There was then a scattering of records during the latter part of the 19th. Century, but the majority of early records date from the early 20th. Century - a checklist of over 300 species was amassed by L.A.Carr from the Lichfield area and several notable arachnologists visited the County, including Rev. O.Pickard-Cambridge and A.R.Jackson (the latter noting Porrhomma pallidum for Staffordshire in 1900-02 before he described the species in 1913).

L.A.Carr continued to record spiders up to the early 1920s, but then there is very little information until A.M.Wild began recording in the mid-1950s continuing into the mid-1960s. The late-1960s saw the start of modern arachnology both nationally and in Staffordshire, with the start of the first Spider Recording Scheme by Dr Peter Merrett and with visits from several current BAS experts, particularly to Chartley Moss National Nature Reserve, and there has been a regular flow of data from various resident naturalists throughout the County.

The Spider Recording Scheme was resurrected nationally in 1987 by the late Clifford Smith, and I joined in 1988 becoming Area Organiser for Staffordshire. Since that time the number of records has increased considerably, with several registered recorders resident in Staffordshire, two notable contributors have been Wayne Rixom (now sadly deceased) and John Stanney (now Montgomery Area Organiser).

Printing of this publication for educational purposes is permitted, provided that copies are not made or distributed for commercial gain, and the title of the publication and its date appear. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission from the Author or Staffordshire Ecological Record.

Created by SER © 2019 The Wolseley Centre, Wolseley Bridge, Stafford. ST17 0WT Last updated 20/04/2015
Operated by: Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council