False Black Widow spider
Nov 04 2014 Posted: 09:51 GMT

Aileen Wruck, an undergraduate zoology student from NUI Galway has been collecting spiders in and around Galway city as part of her final year research project. Her goal is to get a better understanding of how spiders colonise human dwellings and turn man-made structures to their advantage.

Over the past few weeks, Aileen has been trapping and collecting spiders from seemingly unlikely locations for wildlife including bridges, stone walls, attics, car parks and public staircases. To date she has managed to identify 110 specimens from 27 species.

Her most prized catch are two false black widows found in a local car park. Aileen said: “False black widows are not native to Ireland, but they have managed to establish populations in most cities, where man-made structures provide the shelter and the warmth they would not get otherwise in the countryside. False black widows have had very bad press recently, but the reality is that they are very shy and not more dangerous than a wasp or a bee.”

Dr Michel Dugon from the discipline of Zoology at NUI Galway and Aileen’s supervisor, is eager to explore this new urban wildlife: “By building large cities and developing international trade, we have effectively opened a world-wide network of urban environments. Many bugs have benefited from these new conditions and have become closely dependent on us for their survival and dispersal. The study of these man-made ecosystems is now a field of research on its own called urban ecology. It is both fascinating and slightly scary to think that we have created ecosystems where climatic and geographical boundaries do not apply anymore.”

Have you come across false black widows or very unusual looking spiders in Galway? If so, you can send your pictures to Aileen by email at a.wruck1@nuigalway.ie.

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