Spiders · Urban Ecology · Biodiversity

Bee tags on spiders!

I’ve just started what I hope will be the one of the last experiments for my PhD, which involves collecting Golden Orb Weavers and transplanting them to new sites.

I went out to La Perouse this morning to collect a few mature females for my pilot study. There is a great colony of them out there, right next to the road so it’s a perfect field site (it’s also a great dive spot, which is how I originally found it!).

In order to make sure that I’m looking at the same spiders once I transplant them I need to be able to identify them. So I’ve decided to use bee tags! Finally a skill from my honors work that I can use for my PhD (I did my honors in Perth with the CIBER bee lab).

Bee tags are very small plastic disks which are glued onto the abdomen of queen bees so that the apiarists can make sure that the queen is the original one they placed in the hive (some times hives will kill the queen and make their own).

I was worried that the spiders would be very mobile, so for the first one I put her in the fridge for 5 min to slow her down a little. This worked well, so for the next one I decided to be really brave and try the process on an “awake” spider (keeping in mind that they are very large and can move quite quickly!). Thankfully this turned out to be no problem, they were all very well behaved!

Spider now known as Yellow #1

So now that my 5 test spiders have been marked, they will be kept in the lab over the weekend and I will release them next week.

I would like to release them on campus so I can keep an eye on them but there are 3rd year students doing invertebrate collections at the moment so I’m not sure they would be safe…


  1. June 14, 2015    

    Having lived in WA and worked in UWA as a surgical academic, (Ophthalmology) for many years, with several arachnophobes in the family, I developed a spider/cockroach catcher, which does no harm to the trapped, which can then be released wherever it’s safe for them. I was wondering how you catch your spiders for tagging.
    Here in a bush block in the Western Tiers of Northern Tasmania, our huntsman spiders are just as magnificent as those in Perth, and our myriads of near microscopic orb web builders in the paddocks are staggering in their number and variety. Leaf curling spiders are very talented too, we find.
    We enjoyed very much hearing you on the ABC and will keep a watch out on your activities!
    I shall also be telling your colleague, Dr Amber Beavis in the WA museum about the ‘humane’ catcher, if it is of interest.

  2. Anne B. Johnson's Gravatar Anne B. Johnson
    September 7, 2018    

    I am looking to do something very similar. My mom’s yard is an absolute hotbed of wolf spiders. These spiders are very very large, and some are the same size and coloring, but their markings are quite different. I suspect hybridization is going on because the animals are so similar. I will probably need to capture a few and take good looks at them–and when they expire, look at their genitalia for clues as to their taxonomy as well. (I just can’t bring myself to kill these magnificent creatures for this purpose.) I had planned to use bee tags to track others and see what kinds of populations we have in that yard. There are so many! I would also like to know what attracts them to that yard in particular. Mom thinks I am nuts. My advanced degrees are in English, but I am so spider crazy now, I wish I could get another degree. Alas, I am 63. Still, I guess it’s not unheard of!

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