Norwich man looks after 3000 baby spiders
It's an unusual job for anyone – especially somebody who is scared of spiders.
But Dan Bedford's dislike of the creatures doesn't stop him feeding them with fruit flies sucked up with a plastic tube as part of an important conservation project.
Mr Bedford, 23, is working at the John Innes Centre at Norwich Research Park where he is playing a key role in the captive breeding and eventual release of the UK's rarest arachnid.
The fen raft spider is known to exist in just three locations in the UK, including Redgrave and Lopham Fen on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, where it was discovered in 1956.
The creature can grow to a body length of 2.3cm (one inch), spanning 7cm (3in) including their legs.
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The species' survival has been threatened by several factors, including drought, a reduction in its natural habitat, pollution and genetic problems.
A conservation and research programme funded by Natural England aims to breed the spiders in captivity and ultimately release them in the hope of increasing their numbers.
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Mr Bedford's job involves looking after some 3,000 spiderlings, feeding each one individually with fruit flies. I suck up the fly and then blow it out again into the tube where the spider is. There is a filter on the end to stop me swallowing the fly,' said Mr Bedford, of Cringleford. 'I work three days a week and it takes me two weeks to get through all the spiders, and then I start all over again. It's OK because spiders can go for weeks without anything to eat.'
Mr Bedford, a former Hethersett High School pupil, is working on the programme for 13 weeks. He confessed: 'I don't actually like spiders. I was a bit wary at first, but these ones are so small I am OK with them.'
For more information on the project, visit www.dolomedes.org.uk