The Fascinating World of Spiders

Friday, October 18th 2019

Earlier in the week, a member of the British Arachnalogical Society visited to deliver some staff training on spider identification. Jim Pewtress (aka Spiderman) spent the first part of the morning explaining the different types of spider that can be found in the UK (there are 680 species in total). 

One way to differentiate spiders is by their webs which can be sheet, radial, tangle or hammock in design. The anatomy of the arachnid was also covered.

After a virtual tour of the spider world the team headed out into the field to catch some live specimens. Sweep nets were used in an area adjacent to the heathland.

Some with more success than others (better luck next time Gerry)! It was surprising how many spiders were lurking in the damp grasses and over twenty were found altogether in a short space of time.

The contents of the nets were emptied into white plastic trays and pooters were then used to lift the spiders carefully into pots.

Back at the field centre, a microscope was used to study the creatures in more detail.

A small glass dish filled with tiny white beads showed the spiders up well. 

Identifying animals that are only 2.4mm in length requires a lot of patience and skill. Over half of the spiders in the UK are in the money spider family like the one shown here.

Jim explained the intricacies of spider identification; the males have larger palps than females (they look a bit like boxing gloves) and the shape of these amongst other factors is key to distinguishing one species from another. The photo below shows a palp of a house spider. The small dark object in the centre has a distinct hook shape.

This was compared to the illustration from a book to identify the spider as Tegenaria duellica one of a possible eleven species of Tegenaria found in Europe.

Our sincere thanks to Jim for providing a valuable insight into the fascinating world of spiders!


 


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