Did you know that the UK is in fact home to a tarantula? The purseweb spider.

The purseweb spider is Britain’s only tarantula and a member of the family that contains these 'tropical giants'.

Although the word 'tarantula' still strikes fear into hearts, you needn't worry. 

What is the purseweb spider?

According to Adele Brand, a wildlife researcher at BBC's Countryfile, the purseweb is a stay-at-home spider.

It spends most of its life inside that silken tube, which has variously been compared to an old purse and a dirty sock - hence its name.

The whole structure can be up to 25cm long but only a small part protrudes above the soil surface.

Are purseweb spiders dangerous?

The Missouri Department of Conservation says: "Purseweb spiders have large, imposing chelicerae, and like nearly all other spiders, they possess venom to subdue their prey and can potentially bite a human if mishandled.

"But purseweb spider bites do not pose a danger to people, except for the rare cases of people who are highly sensitive to spider bites."

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What do purseweb spiders look like?

While much smaller than a true tarantula, it has some of their characteristics and still looks distinctively ‘different’ from our other British spiders with its heavy-set legs and large ‘fangs’ (properly called chelicerae).

The spider operates these like parallel daggers, rather than the pincer-like movement of other British species.

 The body of a purseweb ranges from 1 to 3.8cm

What parts of the UK does the purseweb spider inhabit?

Sightings are possible in the North and South Downs, New Forest and other south-eastern sites, but a few are found as far north as Cumbria and south-western Scotland.