Frequently Asked Questions

Are spiders poisonous?

Not unless you eat a lot of them! Kidding aside, one correctly asks if spiders are venemous and if their venom can harm humans. Of the approximately 40,000 species in the world, only about 200 have venom that might be of medical significance. The vast majority of spiders either have weak venom (from a human perspective) or have tiny fangs incapable of piercing human skin. Fear of spiders is grossly out of proportion to any biological reality.

How were the spiders chosen?

Choosing nine spider species wasn't easy. There was a discussion open for some time in The Nearctic Arachnologists' Forum (see thread) and input was received. Once the discussion began to wane, nine species were chosen as Spider WebWatch ambassadors.

Why are only 9 species being watched?

There are approximately 4,400 species of spiders in North America. Keeping tabs on all of them would be far too much to expect in a citizen science program like this. However, you may want to check out The Nearctic Spider Database where collectors and museum curators upload their digital specimen records and in turn, maps, species lists, and other data are made available. Many spiders are difficult to identify. The nine species featured in Spider WebWatch are relatively easy to identify and can be quite common. They were specifically chosen because they are native to North America. It might have been interesting to collect observations on non-native species to discover if their ranges are expanding, but let's first start with species we know to call North America home. With lots of observations, in time we might be able to draw some general trends in relation to Global Warming and other anthropogenic (human-caused) disturbances.

How can I tell the difference between a male and a female spider?

Spiders have eight legs, but 10 appendages in total. The other two appendages you may be unfamiliar with are called pedipalps (often abbreviated to palps) and are located between the first pair of legs and the mouthparts. Adult males have bulbous or swollen ends to these pedipalps, whereas female spiders do not. Males use these ornate pedipalps during mating and taxonomists use the male pedipalp to identify a spider to species.

Male Pedipalp
Male Pedipalp Misumena vatia male pedipalp

Why are there so few text boxes on the observation submission pages?

There are quite a number of citizen science initiatives out there and each has their own way of doing things. While in most cases it would be worth parsing data components out into separate fields, this translates into far too much work for participants. Such an observation submission page would be overwhelming. So, the content of the observation is left entirely up to contributors. However, there is still plenty of information one can obtain from 3rd party sources using nothing but coordinates and a date, which are required data in Spider WebWatch.

I found a spider I can't identify. Where can I get help?

Lucky for you, there are lots of places where you can get help. A few Internet resources to start from are The Canadian Arachnologist where you can find a professional or amateur spider enthusiast in your Province (are many US and International members as well), The Nearctic Spider Database where you can look at lots of pictures or see what species have been collected in your area, or you can become a member of The Nearctic Arachnologists' Forum where you can post a good close-up image and seek help from other members. Dr. Jerome Rovner of Ohio University accepts images for identification via the American Arachnological Society homepage. Besides these, you may also want to browse through The Arachnology Homepage where there are thousands of links to other resources.

When did Spider WebWatch get started?

The database and webpages were created mid-March, 2007 and there are constantly tweaks and updates to make Spider WebWatch easier to use and informative.

Can I use Spider WebWatch data elsewhere or can I copy the images?

Once there is a significant number of observations, downloads and web services will be enabled. Spider WebWatch is fully open access and you will eventually be able to use these any way you wish. In the meantime, feel free to subscribe to the GeoRSS feeds to keep up-to-date on submitted observations. Representative images were submitted or chosen from other sources. You best contact the photographer if you wish to use any images. If you would like to use a logo for attribution, see "Spread the WebWatch Word".

Why don't my submissions immediately appear in my Google EarthTM Spider WebWatch network link?

The Google Earth files are automatically updated in the wee hours every Sunday morning. So, check out your Google Earth network links the following Sunday or Monday and you should see your submissions then.

Where can I get help using Spider WebWatch?

The instructions page can be found HERE. If your question is not answered, do not hesitate to contact the Webmaster and the Spider WebWatch administrator, David P. Shorthouse.