The elusive ladybird spider

Ladybird spiders were rediscovered in 1979. Image: Pavel Krasensky

With a striking red abdomen decorated with six black spots, the male ladybird spider is one of the world’s most fascinating — and elusive — creatures. This spider (Eresus cinnaberinus) is an endangered species. Most of their colonies can be found in sandy spots between heather bushes, which protect them from the wind and rain.

Ladybird spiders are rarely seen, as they spent most of their life underground. The males leave the burrow when they are ready to copulate, and die soon after mating. The black-and-velvety females, which rarely leave their burrows, measure 8 to 16 millimetres; the males are smaller, measuring up to 11 millimetres.

An international team of researchers has documented the anatomy of all the major kinds of velvet spiders, including Eresus cinnaberinus. Some of their results were published in a special issue of the open access journal ZooKeys.

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