Spiders: An Organism for Teaching Biology
Collecting, Keeping, and Caring for Spiders
Collecting spiders is easy. They are found everywhere; you may not even need to leave your house! The equipment can be as simple as a jar with a lid. In fact, I catch most of my spiders by stalking them with a jar. Collecting is fun, and you will certainly want to move outdoors too. Many species of spiders can be found through all seasons of the year.
Keeping and Caring for Spiders
Spiders are really easy to keep and care for. They require very little space and feed usually once or twice a week.
The container you keep your spider in may be as small as a three inch vial or as large and fancy as a terrarium. If you wish to observe natural behavior then you will want to provide the spider with space and habitat similar to the one from which it was collected.
You don't need to purchase any thing, a plus for classroom use. Old mayonnaise jars, large clear containers minus contents from Price Club, yogurt cups with clear lids, old pictures frames for web spinners, etc. are just a few ideas. Decorate the container with materials you collect from outside: twigs, dirt, sand, dry leaf litter, rocks, dry grass, etc. For a touch of color buy a few silk flowers at a yard sale or McFrugals.
Food can be provided relatively easily, a must for busy
b) For larger spiders, try raising house flies. Leave out some moist cat food, dog food, or fruit to attract flies. They will lay their eggs on the food. When maggots start growing, you can start your colony!
c) Large spiders such as wolf spiders, tarantulas, and Phiddiupus can eat grasshoppers and crickets. Students can catch these for you. Crickets can also be purchased at most pet stores.
d) Have students catch different insects and see what the spiders will eat.
e) Some spiders need water. This can be provided in
a small dish or a in a moist piece of cotton or tissue. Many desert
jumping spiders do not need the extra moisture; they get all they need
from their food.
If a spider dies or if you wish to build an archive
collection, you will need to preserve specimens. Spiders are very soft
bodied and shrivel terribly if left to dry like insect specimens. It
is best to put the spider in alcohol in a vial. 95% ethanol is best,
but I have found that 70% rubbing alcohol from the grocery store works
well too, especially for classroom use. Store your spiders with labels,
either done in alcohol-proof ink or pencil. Include the following information
on the label: date captured, location, collector, and identification
The University of Arizona
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
General Biology Program for Secondary Teachers