A rare funnel-web spider has been found for the first time in Northern Ireland. Malthonica silvestris, closely related to the house spiders that people often find in their houses in the autumn, had only ever been found in Ireland, much further south in Cork.
The little spider had been found at Whitehead north of Belfast and is completely harmless. In England and Scotland it is normally found in damp woodland, but lives in caves in Europe. Unusually this specimen was found hiding out on a warm sunny coastal cliff where it was living in a silk-lined tube in a rock crevice.
Adam Mantell, Buglife’s Northern Ireland Officer who found and identified the spider during a survey said: “This is a really exciting discovery. Not only is this the first record for Northern Ireland, but it is very rare across the rest of Ireland too. With two out of three of our bugs in decline and so much wildlife disappearing from our countryside, it’s brilliant to have some good news for once, and add another spider to the list of species found in Northern Ireland.”
It is unknown whether this species has been here for a long time or if it has recently moved northwards because of the warmer summers. Surveys are essential as they can show how animals move in their environment.
As invertebrates are among the first animals to respond to changes in climate, these finds are extremely important to help give a better picture of climate change.