The East London Garden Society

Tower Hamlets Spider

Tower Hamlets Spider

London’s eight Royal Parks are some of the world’s most spectacular urban green spaces, visited by 77 million people a year. They also host activities that range from jogging to rock concerts but share a secret. They are also home to a spectacular range of creepy‐crawlies which are indigenous to the Capital vital to the urban ecosystem. Now a new project aims to record and protect them.

The project named Mission: Invertebrate will highlight the importance of worms, gnats, spiders, slugs and grasshoppers in maintaining the health of Britain’s wildlife and natural habitats.

The aim of the challenge is to record as much wildlife as possible on city streets and in parks. The main effort in London will be on the insects of the Royal open spaces: Hyde Park, Green Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park, St James’s Park, Bushy Park, Regent’s Park and Kensington Gardens.

“To protect and increase our wildlife, we need more data and a deeper understanding of what lives here and invertebrates are crucial to that understanding” said Mission: Invertebrate’s Project Manager, Dr Alice Laughton.

Underground Mosquito

The idea that London is a hotbed of invertebrate activity may seem unlikely. However, the claim is supported by the number of insect species to which the city has put its name.

These include the Tower Hamlets spider (Macaroeris nidicolens), a jumping spider identified in Mile End Park in 2002; the Bushy gnat (Grzegorzekia bushyae), a species of fungus gnat discovered in Bushy Park in 2016; and the London Underground mosquito (Culex Pipiens Molestus), a genetically distinct subspecies of mosquito that has evolved in the deep tunnels of the tube over the past 100 years.

“In many ways, cities, especially London, act as refuges for these invertebrates’ added Laughton. “In the countryside, you have problems that include run‐off from fields polluted with pesticides, and when they reach rivers and streams these can do all sorts of harm to insect life. By contrast, water in London is relatively clean and so its insect life is quite healthy.”

This was endorsed by Hugh Smith, Senior Wildlife Officer for the Royal Parks. “If you take the example of the main lake in St James’s Park, it has a lot of Rudd and Perch in it, plus Carp and Roach. That indicates there must be a lot of insect life to provide food for them.”

In fact, more than 4,720 species of invertebrates have been recorded in London’s Royal Parks which cover 5,000 acres, most of them former Royal hunting grounds. These include more than 1,000 species of fly in Bushy Park, including the Bushy gnat; more than 100 types of spider in Brompton Cemetery (also run by the royal parks), including the Tower Hamlets spider. It is estimated that Richmond Park has more than 400,000 ant hills that are home to some 3 billion ants.

If you wish to take part in this project, visit Mission: Invertebrate.