How to Identify Types of British Spiders

Updated November 21, 2016

There are over 600 known species of spiders in the United Kingdom, and others not yet identified. Some have been here for hundreds of years, and others have been introduced over the past century, hidden among imported cargo. Some spiders are easy to identify, particularly the larger ones, but others have similar, detailed markings and characteristics making identification more of a challenge.

Search for spiders in the home, shed or garage in corners around the floor or ceiling. Place an empty, clear, dry jar gently over the spider, avoiding trapping the legs, and slide a piece of thin cardboard or firm paper slowly underneath the mouth of the jar to contain the spider. This will give you a view of the spider to study its markings and characteristics.

Keep the spider in the jar, away from heat, and try to find a picture of it in a field guide book on British spiders if you have one. Buy one or borrow one from a library. If you don't have a book, search on websites such as the British Arachnological Society (see Resources), which often provide charts with clear photos of all the known spider species in the U.K. Look for similar markings, body shape, size, colour and common habitats that may match the spider you found to one shown on the charts.

Release the spider outdoors once you have identified it, preferably away from the house, among foliage or areas where it can hide. Do not keep a spider in the jar longer than two or three hours before releasing it because it may need to look for food.

Look in areas where spiders may live such as in the garden or in a park, especially on leaves, around tree bark or on the ground.

Look at the spiders you find through a magnifying glass, if you have one, and observe markings and other characteristics. If you have a camera that can zoom in close enough to get a clear shot, take a photo for later identification if this is more convenient.

Use your field guide book on spiders to identify the spider you have found. Pocket-sized field guide books are useful to take with you when looking for spiders outdoors.

Use your spider photos if you took some, and match the clearest image with the ones in a book on British spiders or search for it online on the British Arachnological Society spider identification page.


Join an arachnid society or club in your area to help you identify spiders


Avoid injuring spiders by picking them up. Be aware that some spiders do bite.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass (optional)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Field guide book of British spiders
  • Jar (optional)
  • Internet access (optional)
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