I have finally finished sorting all of the spiders that I collected last summer and I'm excited to share some of the spiders with you! I went through all of the pitfall traps (shown in previous blog posts) and sorted the Arachnids into vials. All of the spiders from one pitfall trap are preserved in one vial (see photo right). The vials are filled with ethanol to preserve the spiders. While a few pitfall traps had only one spider in them, many had well over thirty. I am now going through the process of identifying all of the spiders and am finding some really cool things!
Most of the spiders collected in pitfall traps are ground-dwelling spiders which means that they hunt on the ground and do not catch insects in a web. Pitfall traps catch these spiders because while they are running across the ground they fall unexpectedly into the trap. Pitfall traps will also catch other invertebrates and insects that run across the ground such as beetles; however, I am only identifying the Arachnids.
Another ground-dwelling spider that I collected is Xysticus spp., a common crab spider (Family Thomisidae). Crab spiders are often seen hunting in flowers and get their name for their crab-like legs (notice how the front legs are curved forward). The photo on the right is of an immature. When it matures it will keep it's black pattern but the white will turn into an orange color. It is near impossible to identify immature spiders to species.
I also collected a large amount of juvenile western black widows (Latrodectus hesperus). This was really surprising to me because unlike the other spiders, black widows are not ground-dwelling. What I found was that these juvenile black widows, which are actually white until they're mature (see photo right) were not falling into the trap like the other spiders but were using the trap as a place to put their web. The widows were actively catching other spiders and insects that were falling into the trap!
In addition to collecting spiders, I also collected many wind scorpions (Order Solifugae). Wind scorpions are primarily nocturnal, found in dry hot climates, and get their name from being extremely quick runners. While they can bite, they do not have pincers or venom glands like spiders and scorpions. Solifugids are incredibly difficult to identify to species, so I will be sending most of these to a wind scorpion expert for identification. You can actually see a Solifugid in my vial photo up above!
More to come soon...