With over 34,000 species of spiders in the world, and more than 650 in Britain, identifying them is no easy task. Minute differences make identifying smaller species almost impossible without a high-powered camera or a microscope. Fortunately, several websites cater to British spider enthusiasts and provide resources to help you identify different species. Combining newer online resources with more traditional ones, will enable you to identify any spider.
Take a picture if you're looking to identify a particular spider. If the spider is small you may need to use a telescopic lens. Camera stores sell special attachments for taking pictures of insects and other small objects. Uploading the picture to your computer will make identifying the spider easier when you use online databases.
Use online resources. Websites such as the British Arachnological Society, the World Spider Catalog and the Spider Identification Location Chart (see Resources) all offer a number of resources. Read the descriptions of different species and, if you took a photo, compare it to the ones on the website.
Join an arachnid club or society such as the British Arachnological Society. Joining a club will allow you to exchange info with other members. Many members have considerable experience and can easily help you identify spiders. Universities and colleges often run insect and arachnid clubs, as do some community centres.
Visit a library or bookstore for books on spiders. The British Arachnological Society has a list of books that can help you. Ask your librarian if you want to find more resources.
Visit a museum. Many museums have large collections of arachnids on display. You can compare the picture of your spider to the specimens on display.
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