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University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

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by Rudy Scheibner,
Extension Entomologist

(extracted from "Hobby Collecting of Spiders")

Learning to Identify Spiders

The Golden Nature Guide book SPIDERS AND THEIR KIN by H. W. Levi, et. al. is a good book for the beginning hobbyist. Besides the numerous colored illustrations of spiders, the book also has information on how to collect spiders, and ways to keep certain kinds of spiders in captivity. One of the interesting things to observe about an orb weaving spider in captivity is how it goes about making its web; and after the web is formed how it deals with insects that become trapped in its web. Live flies and small grasshoppers and moths are good insects to give to your captive spider.

Three Kentucky Orb-weavers

Three large ( 3/4 to 1 inch long), easily identified, orb-weaving spiders that are commonly seen in fall in Kentucky are the shamrock spider (Araneus trifolium), the marbled spider (Araneus marmoreus) and the yellow garden spider (Ariope aurantia). They can be kept in cages for observation, but they may not be able to spin a normal web because of lack of space. The main part of their webs are usually a foot or more across. If you want to observe how these spiders deal with their prey, it is better to toss insects into webs that they have made outdoors.

Spider Silk

Spider silk may be stretched as much as one-fourth its length before breaking. The silk of Nephila spiders is the strongest natural fiber known, and South Sea Islanders use the silk of these spiders to make tote bags and fish nets. Nephila clavipes, is an American spider from which 150 yards of silk per spider can be collected. It would take the work of 415 spiders to make a square yard of cloth. The same number of silkworms could make twice as much silk, and they are easier to raise, so spider silk has no commercial value.

Black widow graphic courtesy of University of Florida-Entomology

Last updated: 19 April 1999

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