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by Joseph K H Koh
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How to collect and preserve spiders
The easiest way to catch a spider is to place a tube or wide-mouthed bottle beside it and then gently push in the spider with a stopper. For web-living spiders, it is important to place the tube below them, as they tend to drop to the ground when disturbed.

examples of bottles and tubes to useAs glass tubes can break easily in the rough and tumble during field trips, you should carry plastic tubes or bottles instead. There is no need to make ventilation holes on the bottle caps as spiders can survive for a few days in a closed bottle. However, many spiders cannot withstand heat and will die quickly if the bottles are placed in heat traps such as a car parked under the sun. As spiders tend to attack each other, live spiders should be placed singly in each tube. Each tube should be painted or labelled with a number so that you may subsequently match the specimens against records of date, locality, habitat and any observed habits in a notebook. Alternatively, you may insert a piece of paper with a number written in pencil into the tube. (Do not use ballpoint pen as the ink will smudge when the paper gets wet.)
using a net to catch spiders
using a net to catch spidersMany elusive or supposedly rare spiders may be collected by sweeping through vegetation with a sweep net, which is essentially a modified butterfly net with a tougher white cloth bag and a shorter handle. You may also hold the sweep net below some branches with one hand and shake the branches with the other, so that spiders hidden in the foliage will fall into the net below.

For spiders living among forest litter, the best way to collect them is to scoop a heap of dead leaves from the forest floor onto a white plastic sheet spread on the ground, and then remove the leaves piece by piece to search for spiders. Small spiders in the litter can be picked up by touching them with a small paint-brush wetted in alcohol.

diagram of aspiratorSmall spiders can also be captured by placing an aspirator above or near the spider and sucking it up with your mouth (you will not swallow the spiders unless the gauze is broken!).

using a tube to catch spidersThe captured spider can be transferred to a tube by blowing into the aspirator.

Spiders cannot be preserved dry like butterflies and beetles. They must be kept in 70-80% alcohol (either ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol), in glass specimen tubes with water-tight stoppers. (For suppliers of glass tubes and alcohol, look under "Scientific Apparatus & Instruments" in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory.)

Details such as date, locality and habitat should be transferred to a label written in Indian ink or pencil. Where possible, the name and the sex of the spider should also be included. The label should then be placed in the alcohol, together with the spider, inside the specimen tube. If you wish to immobilise a live spider before transferring it into a specimen tube, you can do so by freezing it in a refrigerator.


From "A Guide to Common Singapore Spiders" by Joseph K. H. Koh
BP Guide to Nature Series published by the Singapore Science Centre and sponsored by British Petroleum<
© 2000 Joseph K H Koh