A SPIDER that looks like a ladybird has been one of the conservation success stories of RSPB nature reserves this year.

One of Britain’s rarest spiders, the ladybird was thought to be extinct in the UK in 1906 when it was last recorded in Bournemouth, until a small number were rediscovered in 1980 at one site in Dorset.

A ‘web count’ on the patch in 1994 revealed there were just 56 ladybird spiders left. But the creeply-crawlies have been coaxed back from the brink.

Since then they have been reintroduced to several more reserves, including Arne in Purbeck, where this year a higher number of their distinctive tissue-paper-like webs were seen.

They get their name from the bright red body and black spots of the diminutive male spider and careful management means they have benefited from good numbers of beetles on which they feed.

Males measure 6-9mm while the females are a bulkier 10-16mm and their questionable habits include the male being eaten by the female after mating and the babies devouring their mum.

The RSPB’s list of winners and losers on its 212 reserves covering 16,006 species, includes a decline in the black-and-blue-striped southern damselfly which has a stronghold in the New Forest but has seen numbers fall in East Devon.

Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director said: “Last year’s State of Nature report showed that 60 per cent of UK species are declining.

“This year some have done well, largely because of a combination of good weather and the right management of a network of protected areas, such as our nature reserves.”

He added: “Our best sites must be protected and budgets to support wildlife-friendly farming must be bolstered.”