The case for photographing spiders

I found this article about counting/photographing spiders and other things that often “disgust” the average person interesting and wanted to share.


Nice, thanks for sharing. I’ve found a soft spot for spiders myself.

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By the way, the project AracnOctubre is still on. ;-)


I’ve always liked spiders, but until recently, I’d get the creepy crawlies if I looked at them for too long (you know, where you get the hallucination that there are critters crawling all over your body). iNat has definitely helped me get over that, since I’m now actively seeking them out! Experts like Rod Crawford, the absolute G.O.A.T. and M.V.P. of inat spider id in the Pacific Northwest, have made that possible for me.


And the article links to this forum topic. :wink:


I love watching spiders, letting them walk on my hands, playing with their silk safety line as they move down using it. So this thread made me wonder about spiders in the Netherlands and in Amsterdam, and how I observed spiders here.

Somewhat shockingly, in the last week I found that iNaturalist isn’t even used that much in Amsterdam. There are only 3000 observers here, which I consider very little, who have made about 23000 observations.

Of those observations only 568 are spiders (made by 190 observers)! For me, that seems like an astonishingly low number of spider observations.

I have made 31 observations of only 13 ‘species’ while Amsterdam has 74 ‘species’ at the moment. Many of those have only one or two observations too!

So indeed there is a lot to be won by identifying more species. I went back and looked at my observations of spiders and noticed my photos weren’t great on many. I duplicated some of the photos, cropped them and tagged some spider identifiers. I do see that over time I got better at making close-up photos and cropping, leading to better IDs.

I will surely keep a closer eye on any spider I might find and be sure to make an observation. I didn’t know making more spider observations would be so valuable!

This topic also reminded me of Children of Time, a novel by Adrian Tchaikovsky, revolving around sentient spiders. I read it years ago and thought it was such a lovely, unique book.


There is. But being told that they can’t be identified wihout microscopy of the male pedipalps is a discouragement; it creates the impression that the effort was wasted.

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Yes, and is not necessarily so! I have had many good IDs and I made many half-decent photos with my mediocre smartphone camera.

I woke up to 15+ notifications on my spiders from 7 different people. This community is so lovely!


Why? There are many, many taxa that are difficult or impossible to ID to species level from photos. Add to this taxa that can only be ID’d under certain conditions (only adult specimens, or only if flowers/seeds are present, or only if the host organism is known), this list is even higher. Using a species ID as a measure of whether an observation is “successful” or “matters” carries the risk of excluding or discounting a large percentage of the organisms one encounters.

While of course it’s always exciting to get a species level ID, and disappointing when this isn’t possible, it doesn’t make such an observation a “waste of effort” or some kind of personal failure. Nor is an observation that stays at genus level automatically useless. It still provides information about the presence and range of that genus, and potentially about other things like phenology, behavior, diet, etc. Don’t you think researchers would rather have a lot of observations at genus level than no observations (data) of that taxon at all?

And sometimes it turns out that that observation you didn’t expect could be ID’d to species actually can, because you happened to get just the right angle to see the relevant features. Or perhaps later people figure out ways to ID photos even without microscopic examination, or species groups get created so that one can at least say it is one of three or four species rather than one of several dozen in the genus. (The spider people did this with Philodromus a while ago, accompanied by a concerted effort to re-ID existing observations, and it was pretty cool to have all those undifferentiated genus-level observations suddenly turn into three different species groups.)

But of course this requires that people upload observations of the taxon in question in the first place, rather than assuming they might as well not bother if they can’t expect a species ID.


Most jumping spiders can be IDed to species (or at least genus) without microscopy. Other spider families are more difficult.


Hello guys,

I would definitely love to capture the diverse feelings for spider species who are often perceived dangerous or disgusting. I have created a survey for this purpose here:

I would appreciate if you could check out the survey, and perhaps rate the species, some of which are spiders from different taxa, there. It is a very simple survey. It shows an animal image (from iNaturalist) and asks you to rate the animal by degree of cuteness, beauty, dangerousness… There is a long list of species to rate, but you can stop whenever you want!

The survey is part of my ongoing PhD research on public perception for the animal kingdom, which aim to characterize different ways we humans are interested in different groups of species.

Many thanks in advance!

I wish that entire post could be stickied here and on every other focus forum. Bravo.

  1. It took a long time to load.
  2. Would it have tried to add an extension to MS Edge or is than another Microsoft no-no from the last update?
  3. Perception of ‘endangered’ does not seem a valid question.
  4. My first impression of the shrimp was ‘looks delicious’.

Don’t believe everything you hear. With wolf spiders, we’re using iNat observations to DISCOVER ways to ID to species without looking at the genitalia. Spider experts often don’t even bother with the morphology beyond the genitalia, so there may be cases that can be identified, they’re just not published. We’re finding ways to do so–at least in a few cases.


Nice link. As someone who has been known to write stories (occasionally horror), I’ve read that the way certain creatures move, and the unpredictability in their movements is what incites human fear. Think spiders, bats, mice, rats etc.
After that, other creatures that seem slimy like slugs can create revulsion. Another ingredient for horror stories I’m afraid. When it comes down to it, maybe horror films and books are one of the ingredients that builds phobias. :grin:


In many cases, observations that can’t be ID’d past the genus level are nonetheless useful one way or another. Don’t give up.

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Please don’t be put off from observing spiders for this reason! Genus or family level is often perfectly fine, especially for infrequently recorded or understudied taxa. iNaturalist has generated a lot of spider data that otherwise simply would not exist, so I do dearly hope that most users aren’t pushed away from observing spiders just because microscopy is often necessary.

Here is an excellent recent example:
There was speculation that Terralonus was present in Eastern Oregon before this observation, but not much arachnological work happens in the region. This observation can’t go past genus level, but it nevertheless is very valuable since it gives researchers a known locality for a genus that was previously totally unrecorded from the area.


Is there a source to find out where not much arachnological work happens?

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The easy and unfortunate answer: most places, since we’re not a field that has historically been considered important to private or public research organizations. Even in regions that have a history of arachnologist activity, new discoveries are still very much possible.

The more complicated answer: there are places that are better-documented than others (like how various parts of Washington have been extensively surveyed by the illustrious Rod Crawford), but determining where those are is not always easy due to data being tied up in physical collections and closed databases. SCAN (Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network) can be helpful for pulling museum records and observational data in one place, but there are a lot of collections that haven’t been digitized or aren’t part of their network.


Ten days ago I said this…

…and now I have 15 different ‘species’. And then, yesterday morning, I inspected the bark of two trees briefly on my morning walk and found what I thought to be a new species of spider. It got identified last night and then I realized… it is not a spider! It is a Phalangiidae from Arachnidae. So not a spider (Aranae) but a harvestmen (Opiliones) instead.

The natural world is so beautiful and interesting. Something new awaits us every day, whether it is an observation, some knowledge or any other experience related that infinite diversity with its underlying unity. What a joy to be here on planet Earth!