Poison spiders invade Windsor Castle
June 18, 2001
by Peter Gruner and John Gubba
Windsor Castle was on red alert today after a colony of "mystery" spiders was found living underground.
World renowned entomologist Graham Smith was called in after British Telecom engineers discovered swarms of the giant venomous creatures on underground cables at Windsor Great Park, metres from the Queen Mother's weekend residence Royal Lodge.
Mr Smith, a member of the Project-ARK conservation team with a mission to save endangered species, said the creatures can attack and will not be repelled by conventional means. (continued)
He believes the spiders, which have a leg-span of up to 9cm, may be a new species that must be preserved. "It's an extremely exciting find because they are probably a new species or a species that we thought had been extinct in this country for thousands of years," he said.
"Who knows how long these spiders have been in the royal park because they live under-ground. There could be literally thousands and thousands of them. It would be no surprise if they are living underneath Windsor Castle itself."
Mr Smith and fellow experts still need to find out how dangerous the spiders are to humans but great care is being taken not to get bitten.
"The species is certainly venomous and the jaws are strong enough to penetrate human skin," he said.
"It will take a few days before we can work out how dangerous they are."
The alarm was raised when a British Telecom engineer lifted a manhole to carry out maintenance work.
Royal park residents have been warned that the spiders should not be touched.
The creatures discovered so far have large fangs, hairy legs, an aggressive nature and a predominantly rusty red and black colouring.
"We've taken around a dozen samples so that we can make a positive identification and establish whether or not it is a new species. But we don't even know if they're fully grown," Mr Smith said.
"In the meantime, it is no good trying to fumigate the area. All that will do is force them out into a wider area. In any case they will probably be a protected species."
Mr Smith said: "It may take a couple of years to remove the spiders from the network of underground cables."
To track down the spiders in the underground labyrinth of tunnels, the Project-ARK team will use sophisticated electronic mole cameras, a device comparable to the endoscopes used on humans by doctors.
When the spiders are found they can then be enticed and captured, a lengthy process that may require strategic sites to be excavated depending on how far the spiders spread.
The team will spend the next few days observing their behavioural patterns.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.
BBC online news
Tuesday 16 June 2001
Rare species nesting near Windsor Castle
Any entomologists on their way to or returning from Royal Ascot this week might care to investigate a rare species discovered in Windsor Great Park last week.
Nests of poisonous rusty red and black spiders, with a leg span of up to 9 cm, were discovered by British Telecom engineers laying underground cables.
A scientist says they may be a species thought extinct or a new species, and described it as 'an extremely exciting find.'
'The species is certainly venomous and the jaws are strong enough to penetrate the human skin,' said Graham Smith, a member of Project-ARK, which aims to preserve the endangered species.
'Who knows how long these spiders have been in the royal park because they live underground.'
'There could be literally thousands and thousands, and it would be no surprise if they are living underneath Windsor Castle itself.'
A British Telecom spokesman said: 'They're large and there's a lot of them. Our engineers were not attacked, but we have stopped work at the site until we know exactly what they are.'
Attempts to fumigate the spiders could be illegal if they are found to be a preserved species and would spread them further afield, Mr. Smith claimed.
Venomous spiders nest near Queen's home
Tuesday, 19 June, 2001
Nests of rare venomous spiders have been found near Windsor Castle and could be living underneath the royal estate itself.
A leading entomologist believes they may be a new species or a type of spider previously thought to have been extinct for thousands of years.
BT engineers uncovered the spiders last week when they were laying underground cables at Windsor Great Park in Berkshire.
The discovery of the rusty red and black spiders, with leg-spans of up to 9cm, is being described as "extremely exciting".
Graham Smith, a member of Project-ARK conservation team which aims to preserve endangered species, warned that the spiders could attack.
"The species is certainly venomous and the jaws are strong enough to penetrate the human skin."
There are about 50,000 species of spider worldwide, only some of which are known to be poisonous.
'Could be thousands'
Until this week none of these were thought to be found in the UK.
Experts cannot tell how long the spiders had been in the Royal Park as they live underground.
Mr Smith said: "There could be thousands and thousands of them.
"It would be no surprise if they are living underneath Windsor Castle itself."
The spiders could not be repelled by conventional means as attempts to fumigate the species would run the risk of spreading them further afield.
It may even be illegal if they are found to be an endangered species.
A BT spokesman said: "Our engineers were not attacked, but we have stopped work at the site until we know exactly what they are."
Entomologists are examining samples of the spiders in an attempt to identify them.
The team of experts from Project-ARK will spend the next few days studying the behaviour of the spiders using electronic cameras.