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Spiders are air-breathing arthropods with eight legs. They are the largest order (Araneae) of arachnids, with over 40,000 living species recorded.
Most spiders are carnivorous and fearsome hunters. They use their generally venomous fangs to paralyse or kill their prey. They have tiny stomachs that cannot take solid food. So they either pump digestive enzymes into their prey and suck out the resulting liquid, or grind prey up.
They are highly adaptable and are found on every continent except Antarctica. Some spiders spin silk webs to catch prey and all build egg sacs from silk. Special glands at the base of the abdomen create the silk which the spinnerets exude in threads and spin together.
Here are a few spiders you may encounter when out in the woods:
The buzzing spider, Anyphaena accentuate, vibrates its body against a leaf to attract a mate. They do not spin webs to catch prey, but hunt along trees and shrubs.
Comb-footed spiders, Enoplognatha ovate, are often found along rides, they spin loose webs of criss-cross threads. Their egg sacs can sometimes be found rolled up in leaves.
Crab spiders, Misumena vatia, can cleverly alter their body colour to match the leaf or flower they are sat on. This white, yellow or green camouflage hides them from their prey.
Garden spiders, Araneus diadematus, are also found in woods and hedgerows, and can be a wide range of colours. Spinning orb webs in trees and hedges they catch flying insects.
The long-jawed orb-weaver spider, Tetragnatha extensa, spins an orb-like web to catch its prey. It stretches its elongated body out along plant stems to hide when scared.
The pirate spider, Ero cambridgei, is a sneaky hedge dweller. It jerks the webs of other spiders to entice them out and then eats them.
Spotted wolf spiders, Pardosa amentata, can be found in leaf litter at the woodland edge. They are fast-moving hunters that chase their prey rather than building a web.
The woodlouse spider, Dysdera crocata, hunts woodlice and other small insects under logs and stones. They have powerful fangs to attack the hard shells of woodlice prey.