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Embrace the eight-legged invasion

 

House spider

It's not your eyes deceiving you, it is *another* spider scuttling across the floor/behind the curtains/in the bath. September is traditionally the month when spiders tend to enter our homes to escape the dropping temperatures to search for a mate - and according to scientists in the UK the combination of record temperatures and bouts of heavy rain during the summer have created the perfect conditions for the spider population to explode.

At the forefront of this eight-legged enlightment is the University's own "SpiderLab", which has been home to our leading experts in all things arachnid for a decade. The aim of the lab's research is to better understand why spiders do the things they do, with the intention of applying this understanding for the benefit of the human population.

Sailing on silk and walking on water

Current areas of research include looking at how far spiders travel, either by using their silk as a sail picked up by the wind, or by sailing across water, using their legs or bodies. The team is also investigating the properties of silk because of its potential uses in both medicine and engineering, and even the relationship between arachnids and the microbes they carry on their bodies.

The renown of the SpiderLab's Dr Sara Goodacre is such that she has become something of a go-to for journalists looking for the scoop on spiders as summer turns to autumn, this year alone she's made appearances on BBC TV and been quoted in the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express.

“I’m happy that people come to me for the latest spidery news, as it gives me the opportunity to tell them some facts about how smart they are. Whether giving us the blueprints to make artificial antibiotic coated silks for use in medicine, or getting spiders in farmers' fields to act as natural pest controllers – I see it as my goal to bring positive PR for our eight-legged friends.”

There are more than 40,000 species of spider worldwide and roughly 650 species of spider in the UK alone, of which only around a dozen are harmful to humans.

Posted on Tuesday 24th September 2019

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