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Monday, January 28, 2013

Nature Study Monday {Identify that bug!}

One of our latest finds was a really big spider. While we don't try to ID every bug/spider/plant/what have you, that we find, every now and then (especially when someone asks about a blog post!), we do. Using our recently mounted specimen as an example, I'm going to walk you through what I learned about spider identification. You will probably already have figured out these simple steps on your own, or could have if you'd tried, when using the internet to ID one of your nature study finds. But, just in case you haven't ever done it, this is how to start.

step one:


This might include something as vague as bright green bug; though, i recommend you pick something a little more specific if you can, geographical area, size, anything you might guess about it... beetle, moth, etc. Depending on how specific/general you are, this *can* be a time consuming step. Don't worry, it'll get easier the more often you do it! :)

This time, I googled spider identification because frankly, I had no idea where to begin. I came up w/ the following super helpful sites with ID tips (and lots more less helpful sites besides)...

{If you own field guides, you can check THEM first. I usually do. But, for a long time, I didn't own the right ones and I certainly didn't know how to use them. That takes practice.}

step two:

Check your go-to sites for local identification. Wait, you don't have any go-to sites yet? Well, to start, google 'pacific northwest bug identification', or enter wherever you are. Bookmark the most helpful sites so you can go back there time and again. Local guides are probably going to be your best bet, apart from the really big famous sites. There will be links to info that will help you narrow down your search.

For example, I found:
Here's a non-comforting site I ran into. I became even more uncomfortable when I noticed that the very poisonous spider talked about there (made it into Guiness Book of World Records?), looks similar to mine very own dead one currently sitting on my dining room table for display. eek!

{If you have field guide books, pull those out if you haven't already! I really prefer the books, but have found that they are somewhat limited (especially when you live somewhere other than N.America). The good thing about the books though, is they are specific to your region, and usually walk you through the steps to identification and classification. I like that.}

step three:

Using the above steps you'll probably latch onto some leads in the direction you want to go. If not, you can check out some of the following sites that will ID the critter for you!

spiders: - check out their ID guide and then the forum. (spider page)
American Museum of Natural History - spider research
The World Spider Catalog


One thing I learned about identifying spiders that I never would have guessed is, they have eye patterns specific to their families. Which might seem normal to you, but certainly didn't occur to me. In our family, three have brown eyes, two greyish-green, one hazel and one blue, so this wasn't a no-brainer... I never would've guessed it was a deciding factor for spiders!

Another interesting tidbit is that most spiders found in North America are harmless; which is good to know if you live there. Of course, South America is NOT so tame.

Well, chances are some of you could probably teach me a thing or two about identifying insects and other invertebrates... please feel free to leave any helpful hints in the comments! ;)

This has been another Nature Study Monday, and is linked to January's NSM post, where you too can link to your nature study posts to share in the month of January. My goal is to post about our nature studies at least twice a month (1st & 3rd Mondays), but you can link up anytime to any of the NSM posts to share! Click here to see other posts.

1 comment:

TL Glaser said...

My favorite sit for caterpillars, moths, and butterflies in my neck of the woods is Butterflies and Moths of North America, affectionately known as BAMONA) . They keep lists by county and I have added a couple of species to my rural town (probably because folks around here aren't as buggy as I am).

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