Lauren Lane with fen raft spiderlings at Reaseheath College

Keepers at Reaseheath College’s zoo in Nantwich are fostering minute offspring of one of UK’s rarest and most spectacular spiders.

Four hundred fen raft spiderlings are being hand reared at the college for three months until they reach a suitable size for release.

It’s part of Natural England’s programme to secure the populations of some of Britain’s rarest native species.

Reaseheath and other members of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), including Chester Zoo and Dudley Zoo, are involved.

The spiderlings are being kept in test tubes and fed with fruit flies and tiny invertebrates.

College staff and students of Reaseheath’s Herpetological Society are spending the summer recording data such as the size of spiderlings, the number of times they moult and the type of food they consume.

Fen raft spiders are a wetland species and have a leg span of up to 7cm when fully grown. They can walk on water and hunt for prey on the surface and under water.

It is found in three sites in east Sussex, East Anglia and south Wales.

Lauren Lane, the Reaseheath keeper in charge of the project, said: “This has been a rare privilege for Reaseheath to be involved with real conservation work, although very labour intensive!

“It is very rewarding rearing animals and actually getting to put them back into the wild. It has also been a great opportunity for staff and students to work alongside major conservation bodies.”

(Pic: Keeper Lauren Lane examines a fen raft spiderling)

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