How to Identify Spiders in Alberta

How to Identify Spiders in AlbertaSpiders are numerous in most parts of the world, with Alberta being no exception. Arachnids in Alberta are prevalent during certain times of the year, although cold weather during the winter makes them scarcer. Alberta has been noted to have in excess of 1,300 varieties of spiders, ranging from spiders with tiny 0.5 mm leg spans to giant house spiders with a 10 cm leg spans. Identifying spiders in Alberta is largely a visual exploration, although it can be accomplished fairly simply as long as you know what you're looking for. (Pictured: Crab Spider)


Difficulty: Moderate

How to Identify Spiders in Alberta

Things You’ll Need:
  • Spider Field Guide
Step 1
Purchase a spider guide for the Alberta region. This field guide will be a quick reference tool and will have the most common spider species in it. These guides are extremely helpful and will often help you quickly identify common spiders that might cross your path.
Step 2
Look closely at the spider to determine which sub order it falls under. Spiders generally fall under either the Mesothelae or Opisthothelae classification. Mesothelae typically exist only in southeast Asia and will not be found in Alberta, although the Opisthothelae can be further divided into the Mygalomorphae and Araneomorphae sections. Mygalomorphae tend to have parallel fangs while Araneomorphae have oblique fangs, so look there first.
Step 3
Observe the spider's coloring and markings. Spiders tend to be very uniquely marked and these markings vary by species, so make notes of what you notice about the spider's colors and pattern. A number of spiders have immediately recognizable markings, such as the red hourglass on the abdomen of the prevalent black widow spider, so look for these types of markings when evaluating the spider in question.
Step 4
Look at the overall size of the spider. Most species can be eliminated based off of size, so observe the overall size of the spider in relation to its surroundings to get an accurate idea of its size.
Step 5
Examine the living area of the spider you're observing. Spiders are very particular about their environments, and the majority of species will only live in certain areas. Trap door spiders, for example, only live on the ground and underground, while other species might be found in trees or other elevated areas. Look over the web for any unique patterns as well and document these for later research.
Step 6
Photograph the spider if you have a camera available. Photographs are an invaluable tool for determining the species of your spider if it is not easily recognizable in your field guide. Your field guide should come with a map or locator that will help you narrow down your results by area as well, so you can figure out just what part of Alberta your spider comes from.
Step 7
Speak to an arachnologist if you still cannot figure out what kind of spider you've seen. Arachnologist are entomologists that specialize in just spiders and often have decades of experience identifying thousands of spider species. Make sure to take your notes and photographs with you to get an accurate identification of your new eight-legged friend.

Tips & Warnings

Watch yourself when exploring for new spider species. Alberta has a very rugged climate and dangerous creatures can hide in any variety of places, so use caution when examining spiders.
Never touch or disturb spiders when looking at them. Not only can you disrupt the spider's natural cycle and habitat, but you could put yourself in extreme danger of a bite or attack.

Article Written By Louise Lawson

Louise Lawson has been a writer for more than 10 years, drawing from her experience as an English tutor at Colorado State University. Lawson specializes in pet articles, utilizing her 15 years as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.

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