Rare spiders invade farm in Sussex

An unusual breed of spider has invaded a farm in Sussex, with several of a rare breed spotted at the rural site.

Chesworth Farm has seen an influx of wasp spiders

The yellow and black-striped wasp spider, which builds orb shaped webs, has been seen at Chesworth Farm in Horsham.

Horsham District Council has been managing the grassland at the farm as wildflower meadow and this management has attracted the spiders to an undisturbed field area at the edge of one of the meadows.

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Male wasp spiders are small with bodies of around 0.5cm in diameter but the females, which can be more than 5cm in diameter including legs, are much larger.

It is hoped that the spiders will stay and breed on the farm – but mating for wasp spiders is a dangerous game.

As spiders grow they moult their old skins to reveal a fresh soft new skin underneath.

The smaller male has to time his approach to a female very carefully, waiting until she has just had her last moult before developing into her mature form.

At this time her new skin and particularly her jaws are still quite soft and he rushes in quickly to mate with her.

Before this time she can’t reproduce, but if he waits too long she will have developed hard powerful jaws and he is likely to get eaten.

Additional new arrivals at Chesworth this month include 18 sheep, 16 Hebridean and two Herdwicks, that have arrived to join the other animals in ‘Little Horsham Hill Field’, at the bottom of the hill off the main track.

They have joined the llamas, Bridget and Rowena, the Pygmy goats, Pansy and Primrose and the Texell sheep, Poppy and Daisy.

Jonathan Chowen, deputy leader of Horsham District Council and cabinet member for leisure, said: “The new grassland management system at Chesworth Farm is a celebration of the sheer breath of the services our council provides.

“Managing grassland like this to enhance the habitat encouraging a wider variety of wildlife species for our residents and visitors to enjoy is a core aim of the council.

“I would urge as many of you as possible to come along to the Chesworth Farm site during the coming autumn months to enjoy the animals there and the pond dipping on our new platform.”

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