Country diary: the lair of the labyrinth spider

Marshwood Vale, Dorset: Catching such athletic, bulky insects as grasshoppers and crickets requires a sturdy trap that can’t be kicked apart too easily

On dew-laden early mornings, funnel-shaped webs shine in the long grass like crystal vases. Complicated gantries hang between plant stems, tapering down to tubular tunnels, so densely spun that the tough silk appears white.

Despite their appearance, these are not the lairs of some poisonous funnel-web spider, but the homes of labyrinth spiders (Agelena labyrinthica), a species common in rough, uncut grasslands of southern England. They get their name from the complicated hidden passages and chambers within their tunnels.

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