The Ladybird Spider is a fascinating species with distinct features and behaviors that make it stand out among other spiders. It belongs to the Eresus genus and is known for its vibrant colors and unique patterns. In this article, we’ll explore some of the must-know facts about Ladybird Spiders, shedding light on their appearance, habitats, and significance in the ecosystem.
Native to Europe and parts of Asia, Ladybird Spiders are quite small; adult females measure around 10-16mm, while males tend to be smaller at 8-11mm. They exhibit sexual dimorphism, with males sporting bright red or orange abdomens adorned with black dots, resembling the well-known ladybird beetle. On the other hand, females display more muted colors, usually featuring a black or brown body.
What is a Ladybird Spider?
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Arachnida
- Order: Araneae
- Family: Eresidae
- Genus: Eresus
The Ladybird Spider is a member of the Eresus genus, commonly known as velvet spiders due to their unique velvety appearance.
Eresidae family spiders are also referred to as velvet spiders, and they are generally small to medium-sized, with characteristic colors and patterns.
Ladybird Spiders belong to the Arachnida class, which includes over 100,000 species of invertebrates like spiders, scorpions, and ticks.
The largest phylum in the animal kingdom, Arthropoda, encompasses creatures with jointed limbs and exoskeletons, such as insects, arachnids, and crustaceans.
Ladybird Spiders can be found in various locations, including:
- Central Europe
- Southern Norway
- Northern Italy
- Dorset Heathland
There are different species of Ladybird Spiders, with habitat preferences ranging from lowland heathland to sheltered areas, some examples include:
- Eresus kollari, found in Italy
- Eresus cinnaberinus, commonly found in Central Europe
The Ladybird Spider has distinctive black spots on its abdomen, giving it a similar appearance to the ladybird beetle. Its name was first introduced by Charles Athanase Walckenaer in the early 1800s. Monitoring and preserving this captivating species are essential for maintaining biodiversity.
Physical Description and Identification
Ladybird spiders are part of the velvet spider family and are relatively small in size. Males typically measure around 4-6 millimeters, while females are slightly larger, averaging 8-10 millimeters.
These spiders exhibit striking colors and patterns, with males and females displaying different characteristics. Males are usually dark with red-orange markings, whereas females have a black base color with bright red abdomens and black spots.
- Males: Dark color with red-orange markings
- Females: Black color with bright red abdomens and black spots
The female ladybird spider’s red abdomen serves as an easily identifiable feature for this species. The color not only attracts potential mates but also helps in deterring potential predators due to the bright warning colors.
Black spots on the female’s abdomen add to the overall appearance of the spider, mimicking the look of a ladybird, which is how this species got its name. These black spots act as a defense mechanism, making the spider appear less appealing to predators.
Comparison Table: Male vs Female Ladybird Spiders
|Color||Dark with red-orange markings||Black with red abdomen and spots|
|Size (average)||4-6 millimeters||8-10 millimeters|
|Prosoma||Usually smaller||Slightly larger, more rounded|
Habitat and Distribution
The Ladybird Spider can primarily be found in lowland heath habitats. These environments typically feature:
- Dry and sandy soils
- Low growing vegetation like heather
- A mix of grasses and shrubs
In general, lowland heathlands provide the ideal conditions for the spiders to create burrows, hunt their prey, and reproduce.
The Ladybird Spider has a widespread distribution across Europe. Some key locations include:
- Northern Italy
- Southern Norway
In these regions, they mainly occupy heathlands and south-facing slopes with suitable sheltered locations.
|Northern Italy||South-facing slopes|
|Southern Norway||Lowland heaths and forests|
In England, the Ladybird Spider is mostly found in the Dorset heathlands, a prime example of lowland heath habitat. However, the species is considered endangered in this area due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
In Northern Italy, the spider thrives in south-facing slopes, as they provide an ideal mix of sunlight, warmth, and the necessary vegetation for their survival.
South-facing slopes play a significant role in the Ladybird Spider’s distribution. These areas experience more sunlight and warmth, which results in:
- Greater prey availability
- Suitable burrow conditions
- Favorable microhabitats
Sheltered locations are vital for Ladybird Spiders, as they offer protection from harsh weather conditions and predators. Such spots include:
- Dense vegetation pockets
- Under rocks or logs
- Crevices in the terrain
Overall, understanding the Ladybird Spider’s habitat and distribution is essential for its conservation efforts, as factors like habitat loss and fragmentation pose significant threats to this striking and intriguing species.
Behavior and Ecology
Diet and Prey
Ladybird spiders primarily feed on insects such as beetles and other spiders. They catch prey using their venomous bite.
- Prey examples: beetles, other spiders
They have some predators, like birds and larger spiders, but are often protected by their bright colors, warning potential threats of their venom.
- Predator examples: birds, larger spiders
Silk and Webs
Ladybird spiders create different types of silk for various purposes, including the production of cribellate silk used for prey capture.
- Liquid silk hardens into webs
These spiders live in silk-lined burrows, providing shelter and protection from predators. They often stay hidden in their burrows during the day and come out at night for hunting.
- Burrows protect from predators
- Active at night
Reproduction and Mating
Mating typically occurs in the spring, with male ladybird spiders seeking out females within their burrows.
- Mating season: spring
Female and Spiderlings Care
After mating, female ladybird spiders lay eggs within their burrows and guard the eggs and spiderlings until they are ready to leave the burrow. This maternal care ensures the young spiders have a higher chance of survival.
- Female guards eggs and spiderlings
|Feature||Ladybird Spider||Other Spider Species|
|Diet||Insects||Insects, small animals|
|Female and Spiderlings Care||Yes||Varies|
Conservation and Threats
The Ladybird Spider (Eresus sandaliatus) is considered an endangered species in many parts of its range, particularly in England. It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1980. In the UK, the Ladybird Spider is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and is listed in the British Red Data Book as vulnerable.
One major threat to the Ladybird Spider is land-use changes, mainly due to:
- Urban development
- Conversion of lowland heathland to other land uses
These activities result in habitat loss for the spider and reduce the availability of prey for the male spiders.
Agriculture and Forestry
Agriculture and forestry can negatively impact the Ladybird Spider’s habitat through:
- Fertilizer runoff
These practices degrade the quality of the spider’s habitat, threatening its survival.
Efforts to conserve the Ladybird Spider include:
- Habitat restoration
- Heathland management
- Captive breeding and reintroduction programs
These efforts aim to maintain or improve the conditions of the spider’s habitat, supporting conservation and recovery.
Ongoing monitoring of the Ladybird Spider population is essential to ensure the effectiveness of conservation efforts. Monitoring activities involve:
- Surveying the spider’s population
- Assessing habitat quality
- Identifying new threats
Regular monitoring helps to inform adaptive management strategies and ensure the Ladybird Spider’s long-term survival.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Ladybird Spider from Greece
Subject: Odd colorful spider
Location: Achaia, Greece
June 13, 2012 9:14 am
during a recent day trip to the wilderness I came across this odd colorful spider. What triggered my curiosity is that this awesome insect does not share the colors of the native Greek spiders (who commonly have earthly colors like brown and dark green), but looks like an exotic poisonous spider. Can you please identify it for me? Is it really poisonous or just flamboyant?
Thank you in advance!
This beautiful spider is a harmless male Ladybird Spider in the genus Eresus, a group of relatively rare spiders. We have a lengthy post on our site of a female Ladybird Spider from Slovenia. Ladybird Spiders are sexually dimorphic and the males and females appear to be different species. This is a nice photo comparison of the sexes from ARKive. There are some gorgeous photos of Ladybird Spiders on the Spiders of North West Europe website, including an image of possibly Eresus sandaliatus submitted by Dimitris Tzortzakis from Kreta, Greece. That wouldn’t be you, would it???
Letter 2 – Ladybird Spider from Greece: Eresus ruficapillus
Subject: Unidentified spider
Location: Delphi, Central Greece, Southern Europe
August 13, 2014 7:57 am
This spider was seen in Delphi, Greece, on 10th May 2014. I haven’t seen one before… It is about 3 – 4 cm long, black and hairy with an orange ring on its back which covers its belly. I moved it with my leg and it felt endangered, so it lift its forelegs to attack. Pretty scary and amazing! I would be delighted if you could send me feedback with the species of this spider as to search for further information. Thank you in advance!
Signature: Demetrios Grigoropoulos
This is a Ladybird Spider in the family Eresidae, and it is a female spider. The males and females exhibit pronounced sexual dimorphism, and they don’t even resemble the same species. Most examples of male Ladybird Spiders we have seen have bright red abdomens with black spots, and their coloration and markings resemble those of a Ladybird Beetle, hence the common name. We located an image of the Eresidae, Lady bird spider page that looks very much like your individual, and you must scroll down to Eresus ruficapillus to view the images. Another individual is pictured on the Arachnofilia forum. Ladybird Spiders are not commonly encountered and there is much evidence that they are endangered.
Letter 3 – Endangered Species: Rare Ladybird Spider from Slovenia
UNKNOWN BLACK SPIDER ORANGE HEAD
Location: Slovenia, Sezana
August 18, 2011 8:10 am
I found it outside near entrance of my flat on rainy day.
Thought it was a baby bird eater or something like that.
I made a terrarium and i feed it with grasshoppers.
It is a beautiful black spider with orange head. I call it Denis Rodman 🙂
It is about 5 cm big. While i was waiting to grow up spider got lot of little spiders.
Now i am quite afraid because i don’t know nothing about that spider and little ones can escape away from terrarium!
Maybe spider is poisonous and dangerous. I don’t believe that spider is common here! It looks more like some tropical spider. Cannot Google it!
Once you already helped me and i hope this time you can do it too because i don’t know what to do with all those little spiders.
Please help me ASAP because i am not sure if my family is in danger.
Signature: Lazar Trivunovic
WE believe this may be an endangered and protected Ladybird Spider in the genus Eresus, family Eresidae, based on what we have uncovered on the Spiders of Northwest Europe website. The colors and markings of your individual are different than those posted on the site, however, the shape of the spider and they arrangement of the eyes seems correct. The website states: “The female measures 15 – 20 mm and the male around 10 mm. The spider makes a tube of silk in the ground and with a roof of cribellate silk on the ground. The female and the not adult male are coloured black and velvet. The male spider only gets its colouring at his last change of skin. Then he leaves its home and starts wandering looking for a female. The male becomes adult in the autumn or in spring. Females can become four years old and never leave their hiding. The spider makes one cocoon with eggs. At daytime they bring out their cocoon and let it warm in the sun. At night the cocoon is return in the hiding. The young spiders stay in the housing tube during the winter and stay with their mother for quite a long time. During this time they may change skin for six times. In spring the mother dies and is consumed by the young spiders. This spider is very rare and protected in some countries. Their habitat is often found on south-faced, sheltered, heathery slopes.” You might want to contact your local natural history museum to see if they have a spider exhibit and can take this rarity off of your hands. We found this matching photo on Flickr. This photo from Arkive Images of Life on Earthcompares the male and female. You have made a significant find and your efforts to raise the female and her brood in captivity have earned you tagging in our Bug Humanitarian Award category. Please do what you can to ensure the survival of this endangered native spider. The name Ladybird Spider is because of the bright coloration of the male which resembles a ladybug. Back in 2006, we received a photo of a male Ladybird Spider from Spain.
Thank you very much!!!
This is amazing! All neighbours said that would kill that spider.
Happy that i saw it first. I knew in a second that spider was completely different from others. I took it to the local pet shop and owner said that is interesting spider and made me to do a home made terrarium.
I watch how she made a hiding in ground and silky entrance.
First this entrance was closed and i could see how she was moving around with orange cocoon.
Later spider made a hole in silk and now little spiders are moving around it.
All spiders are like mother but only about 4mm and light brown coloured.
This is a great story and excellent news. I am glad i could help this rare spider.
I will contact instantly people that could help me to save this specie.
I must be quite fast because i am not sure what little spider can eat.
Thank you very much and i will report you any further news.
Sincerely Lazar Trivunovic
Hi again Lazar,
We expect that with the maternal care given by female Ladybird Spiders, the mother may share her food with her progeny. We love that you have provided us with a threat posture photo. Seems she is fighting to defend her brood. We are also very excited by your story and we were so grateful that you chose What’s That Bug? the only global identification site attempting to educate as many people as possible about the wonders of things that crawl.
Ed. Note: Read more about the Ladybird Spider
Letter 4 – Endangered Male Ladybird Spider from Crete
Subject: Ldybird Spider
Location: Vamos, Crete
May 23, 2015 8:05 am
This was taken in my garden on the island of Crete. Can you tell me if it is poisonous? Fascinating to find many different spiders here. Last one we found was a wolf spider.
Your endangered male Ladybird Spider in the genus Eresus, most likely Eresus sandaliatus based on information included on the Spiders of NorthWest Europe site which has images from Crete indicating that the species can be identified by the black and white hind legs. Most spiders have venom, but very few species of spiders are considered dangerous to humans. To the best of our knowledge, the Ladybird Spiders are considered harmless, and the fact that they are endangered through much of their range indicates that no methods should be used to threaten them if they are found in your garden.
Letter 5 – Male Ladybird Spider from Greece
Subject: Male ladybird spider?
Geographic location of the bug: Between Lindos and Pefkos
Time: 08:21 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi
We saw this today walking across the patio of a villa. It walked casually across the patio, attempted to climb one of the walls, then found shelter behind an aircon unit. It was about the size of a €2 coin. We think it’s a ladybird spider from our Googling, but would love an experts opinion!
How you want your letter signed: No
Thanks so much for submitting your detailed and beautiful image of a male Ladybird Spider sighted between Lindos and Pefkos.
Letter 6 – Female Ladybird Spider from Greece
Subject: Poisonous spider in Greece?
Location: Kos Island, Greece
August 30, 2014 4:50 pm
during my visit in Asklepion on Greek island Kos, we found on the stairs this big black spider, about 7 cm long. It was quite aggressive, when I took it away from the visitors, on a long stick to the nearest forrest, it was biting the stick!
Could you please help me identify what kind of spider it was?
In our opinion, this looks like a female Ladybird Spider in the family Erisidae, a family with many endangered and rare species. Ladybird Spiders get their common name because of the coloration and markings of many male spiders in the family, which are red with black spots. Ladybird Spiders exhibit pronounced sexual dimorphism, and the larger, often black females appear to be distinctly different species from the male Ladybird Spiders. See FlickR for a similar looking image and SpiderzRule for additional information on Ladybird Spiders.
Letter 7 – Ladybird Spider from Crete
Subject: Ladybird Spider
Location: Chania, Crete
April 21, 2016 11:40 am
Today at the University I saw this spider. Curious about how it looks I ended up in your page and learned it’s somehow rare to find. So, if its in any way good, I’m sending you an image and a short clip of this beautiful specimen.
Loved your website, straight to bookmarks.
Thank you for submitting your awesome image of a male Ladybird Spider, Eresus sandaliatus.
Letter 8 – Ladybird Spider
found in spain
Howdy! My friend and i were walking around a small village in Murcia in the south of spain, catching some rays and visiting an old favoured place near a bridge. Along came this thing and i have not one clue what it is, so i snapped up a photo and decided to ask you. Its very dry in the south of span and we werent really near much grass or anything, but sitting on stone. Mainly near vinyards and dusty places. I tried to ask people that live here and look on the net but nothing came up since i dont really know where to start.
The Wandering Scottish Girl.
This is some species of Jumping Spider, family Salticidae.
Ed. Note: (05/03/2006) We stand Corrected!!
Hi Bugman, I noticed your recent picture of a “jumping spider” from Spain. This in fact is not a jumping spider but is the Ladybird Spider (Eresus cinnabarinus) of the family Eresidae. Hope this is of help.
Aaron in London
Thanks for the information. A websearch led us to a site from Capetown on the family Eresidae, known as Velvet Spiders.
Letter 9 – Ladybird Spider from Switzerland
Subject: Lady bird spider
Location: Veysonnaz Switzerland
August 19, 2015 1:57 am
We are in Veysonnaz and see the ladybird spider quite regularly. My children often have seen them in the past years that we have been here on holiday.
I will attach a picture
Signature: Candy Kitsz
Thanks so much for sending in your image of a gorgeous male Ladybird Spider. It is our understanding that populations of Ladybird Spiders are on the decline because of habitat loss. We believe your individual is Eresus cinnaberinus based on images and information on the Spiders of North West Europe site. We are running a bit late this morning and this is the only posting we can make prior to heading to work. We apologize to our readership and we promise to post additional images later in the day.
Thanks for your email.
According to my children, there are quite a lot of the ladybird spiders at a certain area in Veysonnaz town. However, we have never seen them higher up on the mountain. They are very pretty and I had no idea that they were so rare.
I will post more pictures should I see them
Letter 10 – Ladybird Spider Rescued in Greece
Subject: Saved from pool in Kefalonia
Geographic location of the bug: Kefalonia, Greece
Time: 08:58 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Just thought youd like to know. Ladybird spider Saved from a pool in Kefalonia
How you want your letter signed: ..
Thanks for letting us know about your rescue of this beautiful male Ladybird Spider. Thanks to your kindness, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
Letter 11 – Ladybird Spider from Switzerland
Subject: Male Lady Bird Spider
Location: Valais, Switzerland
August 4, 2014 5:17 am
We discovered these male Lady Bird Spiders today in Cotterg, Valais, Switzerland. We looked them up online and were led to your website where we found out they are a rare and endangered spider. We saw THREE of them today, and wanted to share our photos with this wonderful site for others to enjoy this beautiful spider.
Signature: Swiss Sarah
Dear Swiss Sarah,
Thanks for sending your documentation of male Ladybird Spiders in Switzerland. We guess it is mating season there as the brightly colored male Ladybird Spiders are out searching for the drastically different looking, sexually dimorphic female Ladybird Spiders that rarely leave their burrows.
Letter 12 – Male and Female Ladybird Spiders from Greece
Subject: what’s that bug and my little lady bird family
Geographic location of the bug: EUBOEA ISLAND GREECE
Time: 01:27 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I would like to know what’s this bug, that has made this baby nest and takes care of this intensively.
Also I post fotos from my lady bird spider, I recently invented in my property.
How you want your letter signed: ELENA GKIOYZE
Your nest-building insect is some species of bee, but there is not enough detail in your image for us to identify the species. We are thrilled to post your images of the sexually dimorphic male Ladybird Spider and female Ladybird Spiders you found.
Letter 13 – Male Ladybird Spider from Greece
Subject: Ladybird spider
Geographic location of the bug: Patras, Greece
Time: 02:29 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi! Here are some photos from our school yard
How you want your letter signed: Wendy
Thanks for sending in your awesome image of an endangered male Ladybird Spider.
Letter 14 – Male Ladybird Spider from Italy
Subject: Male ladybird spider
Geographic location of the bug: Puglia Italy
Time: 04:46 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This was just sent from a friend in Italy wondering what it was. I found it immediately on your site! What a coincidence.
How you want your letter signed: Jerry
This is indeed a male Ladybird Spider. We are happy you found our site to be helpful in its identification.
Letter 15 – Male Ladybird Spider from Greece
Subject: Is this a ladybird spider?
Location: Mytilene, Greece
June 9, 2016 2:45 pm
Hello I am in Mytilene, Greece, where I found this beautiful spider and tried to take a picture but was too fast for a good shot. I would like to learn if it is poisonous
This is indeed a male Ladybird Spider and they are not considered dangerous to humans.
Letter 16 – Probably Ladybird Spider from Greece
Subject: Is this spider a Ladybird
Geographic location of the bug: Greece south Peloponnesis
Time: 04:01 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Do you know what is this ?
I met this strange spider in Stoupa last Monday.
It was walking quite slowly on the road, body is strong and as large as a 2€ coin, legs are strong too and very tightly gathered around the body.
Wondering if it is common in this area, this is first time I see such strange bug.
I’ve been told this might be a Ladybird Spider
How you want your letter signed: Chris1957
We believe that you are correct in suspecting that this is a Ladybird Spider in the family Eresidae. This image on FlickR and this image on FlickR look very similar. Ladybird Spiders exhibit extreme sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females look very different, and it is the male Ladybird Spider that is responsible for the common name.
Letter 17 – Possible Orb Weaver from Africa: Ladybird Spider?????
I took this photo on a boat in the northern section of the Kafue National Park in Zambia. Can you tell me what it is, I have never seen anything like it before? Thanks
We don’t have the time to research this at the moment, but it is so crazy looking we have to post it. We believe this to be one of the Crablike Orb Weaving Spiders. The closest we could come, though the color is wrong, is this Ladybird Spider genus Paraplectana, on a postage stamp.
Update: (06/07/2007) Ladybird Spider can be Yellowh
Hi Daniel and Lisa,
There is not much info on the web about Paraplectana spp., but I did find this info thanks to Google book search. From: Southern African Spiders: An Identification Guide By Martin R. Filmer “The abdomen of this orb-web spider is round and decorated with black spots on a bright yellow or red background. Not commonly seen but very distinctive, it is easy to recognize if found.” I would think that if the abdomen in this genus can be yellow or red it can probably also be this sort of creamy-white color? Best to you as always,
We were secretly hoping you might come through with an answer for us on this. So nice to see you are still reading our site.
Oh yes I love the site, I read it every day. I have a few emails to send you, a couple of new images from our Nevis in late April/early May, and some other bits and pieces of ID stuff, but I was waiting until everything calmed down a little… (Relatively speaking of course, since your site is so popular that nowadays you are always snowed under with requests! Not surprisingly, because from my perspective, I honestly think that WTB really does embody everything that is great about the world wide web and what it can do.) Good wishes,
Shucks, We’re blushing.
Go ahead and blush but it is true. First of WTB is a beautiful-looking and well-designed site. It’s not commercial, it is purely a labor of love. It is updated all of the time, but it is also fully archived, and that’s great in itself. It’s appreciated by people all round the world because it is so welcoming and interactive, and so informal and friendly in every way. It’s the perfect balance of science and art and just plain old human curiosity, which is the glorious foundation of all education. It encourages children and adults to start to love bugs, (a category of critters that so many people either actively hate or passively ignore), it helps children appreciate nature, it opposes extermination and bug-crushing. It shows how amateur biologists can do stellar work that ultimately does and will help professionals. It showcases many great photos taken by amateurs. It’s a celebration of biodiversity, and a celebration of the small and overlooked creatures of the world. I love the fact that there is no snobbery at all about what constitutes a “bug” and what doesn’t. In fact there is no snobbery of any kind evident on your parts, only kindness and generosity of spirit. I am a Buddhist as well as a very keen amateur naturalist, and I would say that WTB is a great act of generosity that creates more good-feeling, more fellow-feeling, and more respect for living things in the world. What could be better than that. It’s very sad that the world lost Steve Irwin, but as long as we have people like you guys to carry the torch, the celebration of supposedly despised and supposedly dangerous animals will continue to flourish! And flourish in the great tradition of amateur naturalists. I am from Britain and I grew up 5 miles from Charles Darwin’s house. Good solid amateur naturalists have always been highly honored in Britain.