Nursery-web spider (Pisaura mirabilis)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassArachnida
OrderAraneae
FamilyPisauridae
GenusPisaura (1)
SizeMale length: 10-13 mm (2)
Female length: 12-15 mm (2)

The nursery-web spider is a widespread species is not threatened. It is not listed under any conservation designations (3).

The nursery-web spider (Pisaura mirabilis) is the only member of the Pisaura genus in Britain (2). The abdomen is slender and tapering and there is a light stripe along the middle of the carapace. The colour is variable, and may be grey, yellowish-orange or dark brown. Although males are generally similar in appearance to females, they tend to be darker, with more noticeable markings (2) and have smaller abdomens (3).

The nursery-web spider is common and widespread throughout Britain, but is scarce in Scotland (4). It is also found in northern Europe (3).

The nursery-web spider is found in woodland clearings, grassland and heathland (3) in long grass, shrubs or amongst hedgerows (2).

Members of this family of spiders are active hunters with good vision (3). The nursery-web spider hunts amongst low vegetation as well as on the ground. When detecting prey, they characteristically rest on vegetation with the first two pairs of legs together, held out at an angle (3).

During courtship, the male nursery-web spider presents the female with a ‘nuptial gift’ in the form of an insect wrapped in silk (3). Until fairly recently, this gift was thought to protect the male from becoming the female’s next meal. Research has shown, however, that the gift entices the female to mate, and what’s more, the size of the gift is related to how long the female will mate with a male. The larger the gift, the longer copulation will last and so more eggs will be fertilised by more ‘generous’ males bringing larger gifts (4).

Female spiders belonging to this family produce very large egg sacs, which they carry around beneath their body. When the time for the spiderlings to emerge approaches, the female deposits the egg sac on a leaf and spins a protective silk ‘nursery web’ around it. She then opens the egg sac slightly, and stands guard until the spiderlings emerge (3).

There are not known to be any current threats to the nursery-web spider.

There are not known to be any specific conservation measures currently in place for this widespread spider.

For more on this species see:

For more on British spiders see:

Information authenticated by Dr Peter Merrett of the British Arachnological Society:
http://www.britishspiders.org.uk/index.html

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2003)
    http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
  2. Roberts, M.J. (1993) The spiders of Great Britain and Ireland Part 1- text. Harley Books, Colchester.
  3. Roberts, M.J. (1995) Spiders of Britain and northern Europe. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. London.
  4. Merrett, P. (February 2004) Pers. comm.