DON’T like very big spiders scuttling across the floor of your home? Well Geoff Oxford does. In fact, he goes fishing for them.
Geneticist Dr Oxford has a particular interest in large house spiders.
The North East is already nationally important as a stronghold for red squirrels and on the Tyne has the furthest inland nesting colony of kittiwakes in the world.
Now Dr Oxford’s research has revealed that the region is also tops nationally for populations of one large house spider, Tegenaria Atrica – Teg for short – which can measure 6cms in diameter from leg to leg.
Today, Dr Oxford will be giving a talk on Teg at the North East Wildlife Recording conference at the Great North Museum in Newcastle.
Teg is considered to be rare in England and Wales, although it is widespread on the Continent.
Previously, it tended to be found spasmodically only in locations such as ports, post offices and garden centres where it was thought to be imported on packages.
But five years ago David Smith, a member of the British Arachnological Society which studies spiders, found Teg in his home in Burnopfield in County Durham.
It was identified by Dr Oxford, who says: “ He clearly had a viable, living and breathing population at his home.”
They expanded the search and found more Tegs elsewhere in Burnopfield and also in Stanley, Pelton, Whickham, Blaydon and Ryton.
A sweep this year has revealed Tegs in Newcastle, Gateshead, Longbenton and Whitley Bay.
They are found not only in homes but also garages, outhouses, sheds and places like graveyards.
“To catch the spiders we use a technique called fishing,” says Dr Oxford.
This involves dropping a live maggot on to a web and when the spider dashes out of its hiding place to investigate, it is captured.
“I catch the spider with my bare hands and pop it into a tube so it can be identified, “ says Dr Oxford.