Encountering the Spiders of Oxfordshire


There are more than 650 species of spiders ranging from small money spiders to large house spiders. However, spiders are generally overlooked or, even worse, feared by many people in the UK. The latter is especially irrational as only about 12 of our native species of spiders can inflict a painful, but not dangerous, bite. Rather than being feared, spiders should be admired for their ability to thrive in a large range of habitats, for their impressive engineering skills while building their geometrically complex webs and because they do us as significant service by eating a large number of nuisance and pest insects both outside and inside our houses.

Come along and learn more about these fascinating animals from two local spider experts with Lawrence having decades of practical experience on surveying and identifying spiders as well as being the author of a field guide to British spiders, and Thomas having researched the ecology and behaviour of web-building spiders in both tropical and temperate habitats for more than 10 years.

We will spend the morning in the classroom learning about the natural history of spiders in our local nature reserves, parks and gardens, and how to visually identify the most common spiders in the field. This will be followed by an overview of the function and construction of the intricate and beautiful webs that many spiders build as well as a guide on how their webs can be used to identify the spiders to families and sometimes to species in the wild.

In the afternoon we will take our newly gained knowledge outside and walk to the Trap Grounds and Port Meadow along the canal identifying and talking about the spiders we encounter. At our destination, we will learn how we can sample habitats for spiders in a more systematic way as well as practicing collecting, identification and field measurements of spiders and their webs.

Programme details


An introduction to the natural history and identification of British Spiders
Lawrence Bee

Tea/coffee break

Spiders and their webs
Thomas Hesselberg

Lunch break

Observing and collecting spiders in Oxford, walk along the canal to the Trap Grounds
Lawrence Bee and Thomas Hesselberg

Course disperses


Description Costs
Tuition fee (includes tea/coffee) £85.00
Baguette £6.10
Hot lunch (three courses) £16.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr Lawrence Bee


Lawrence is an independent ecological and environmental education consultant. He has worked in the natural environment for over 30 years and has developed a varied experience as an all-round field naturalist through extensive practical, hands-on work in the field of ecology and nature conservation.

He has provided practical environmental education activities to the primary sector - most recently Rocks and Fossils workshops in Oxfordshire - to secondary and undergraduate students and to adults. He is a Council Member of the British Arachnological Society and executive member of the Oxfordshire Geology Trust. He regularly lectures on British spiders and ancient trees and woodland and leads training workshops on spider identification, plant gall identification and invertebrate survey techniques.

His particular interests include British geology, ancient trees and oak woodland, spiders, moths and plant galls: he wrote the Field Studies Council ID chart – ‘A Guide to House and Garden Spiders’, is currently writing chapters for a forthcoming book on Shotover and is the lead author on a forthcoming photographic field guide to British spiders.

Dr Thomas Hesselberg

Speaker and Director of Studies

Thomas is a zoologist who has studied spiders, insects and worms for more than 15 years in both temperate and tropical climates. In addition to his teaching for the Department for Continuing Education, he is a lecturer in biological sciences at St. Anne's College.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.