Spider Collecting Tips

The SPIDERS OF BC resource has four pages:


  • Most spiders cannot be identified until they are mature and this is relatively easy to see on males, where their palps are modified for sperm transfer. The palps are swollen like boxing gloves and elaborately shaped, with scelerotized areas. The last moult before becoming an adult male involves having swollen palps but they do not show any of the elaborate structures yet. Female spiders have a small area on the underside of the abdomen called an epigyne- when mature this area develops sclerotized areas and sometimes has somewhat elaborate structures- for example the orb-weaving spiders.
  • Look for spiders everywhere: under rocks and logs as well as in webs in the bushes, tree bark, and on or near the ground. Many do not make a web for prey capture. Look on the underside of the rock or log you move, as well as the ground you exposed when you moved the cover object.
  • Remember that many of the spider species in British Columbia are very tiny – less than ½ a centimetre – members of the family Linyphiidae, so even very small individuals can be full grown.
  • After you have taken photos from as many angles and as close up as possible, the spider is put into ethanol with a label documenting its location, the date, and the collector. Please use pencil or a very fine tip permanent pen for the label because it will be put into the 70% ethanol and must stay legible. More than one species can be put into one vial if the site, collector, and date are all the same and the spiders are easily distinguished from each other (i.e. very different species).
  • We use a tool called an aspirator (= pooter) to pick up spiders because they are very soft and easily damaged and many are very small. Ours involves rubber tubing, a filter, and a glass tube, but one can be made out of two straws taped together with a bit of nylon pantyhose between them as a filter – similar to what is shown in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDvlPf_aIt4 . Sucking up the spider with an in-breath and popping the spider into the vial with your out-breath takes a bit of practice but becomes second nature.