Neon-coloured spiders which can jump six times their own length have arrived at ZSL London Zoo, just in time to help arachnophobes overcome their fear and fall in love with eight-legged creatures.
Earning their name, regal jumping spiders (Phidippus regius) can leap around 10cm forwards from a standing start, six times their own length. By suddenly flexing the muscles in their legs they can propel themselves into the air while they spin a line of silk behind them to ensure a safe landing.
Also known for their incredible dancing skills, the monochrome males use their front four legs to perform an elaborate courtship dance, including rhythmic flailing of limbs, hoping to impress their pink or green jawed female counterparts.
Dave Clarke, ZSL London Zoo’s Head of invertebrates and Friendly Spider Programme leader, said; “At just 22mm regal jumping spiders may be small, but are very cute as they have recognisable ‘face’ with forward pointing eyes and some of the best vision in the spider world.
“We know spiders aren’t loved by all, in fact arachnophobia is one of the most common fears in the UK - with more than 18% of the British population affected by it. But we’re determined to cure as many of those people as possible.
“We’ve made it our mission to quash as many myths about spiders as possible and help people overcome their phobia, converting spider-squishers into bug lovers through our world-leading Friendly Spider Programme – and I think these cute new arrivals are going to be a big help.”
Run in partnership with the Centre of Clinical Hypnosis, the Zoo’s Friendly Spider Programme uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy to ease and eliminate arachnophobia.
Helping arachnophobes face their fear of spiders, the course first sees participants learn all about the invertebrates from expert course leaders, before taking part in a hypnotherapy session which helps to reframe the mind’s response to spiders. The participants are then taken to the Zoo’s Tiny Giants exhibit, now home to regal jumping spiders and the UK’s first walk-through spider exhibit - In with the Spiders.
Within only four hours course leaders aim to have participants confident enough to catch house spiders with a cup and card so they can move them outside, earning themselves a certificate of success.
Dave Clarke added: “As well as helping to alleviate a phobia that can seriously impact your day-to-day life, the Friendly Spider Programme has directly supported wildlife conservation projects for invertebrates, including the successful reintroduction of the native semi-aquatic Fen raft spider. This species is listed as threatened in the UK, but the fen raft spider’s range is now increasing thanks to conservation efforts.”
The Friendly Spider Programme at ZSL London Zoo is available to book now. The half-day course is £150 per adult plus concessions, and fees from the course will continue to fund invertebrate conservation projects.