Recording spiders

The Spider Recording Scheme Objectives are given here.

Identification

Some initial identification guidance is provided on the identification of spiders page. Whilst a rather small proportion of the 650+ species of spider found in Britain can be identified in the field and by careful observation of live spiders with a good quality hand lens, the majority of species cannot be reliably identified in this way. Even when provisional identifications have been made in the field, it is usually necessary to confirm these by microscopical examination of the genitalia of adults later. If this is not done, bad errors can result, and such records cannot form any part of the scope of the national recording scheme. It is worth noting in this respect that species new to Britain are regularly found, and there are also species from Europe which sometimes become established in Britain - this means it is not always possible to rely only on books which provide for the identification of British spiders, or even those of north-western Europe. Where it is possible to identify species from photographs, we will try and help in identifications on this website - but please do not expect what cannot be done.

Location and grid reference

The location and grid reference recorded should always refer to where a spider is found i.e. grid references should always be 'containing' grid references referring to the square within which a specimen has been found. If there is no other option, then a centroid GR may have to be given, but this should be made clear on the label and in records by naming the site as a centroid e.g. "Hatfield Forest (centroid)". Otherwise the grid references are highly misleading, and can place records in different 10km, 1km, 100m etc squares to where they were actually found. They can also cause a lot of grief in the future if people are trying to refind a rare species or understand autecological associations and so on.

Please do not provide a grid reference at more than 6 figure (100m square) accuracy unless the species is very rare and the population clearly confined to the small area concerned. There is no point in defining the location of a mobile species to a 1 square metre (10 figure grid reference) or even 10 square metre area (8 figure grid reference). The only exception would be for very rare species which are confined to very localised areas or if traps are used at fixed locations over a time period.

Recorders

Recorders are asked to submit their existing records in computerised format, giving precise information regarding date, site, grid reference, habitat and any other available data, or to submit the data on recording cards. There is more detailed information on recording spiders and in particular on the Recording Methodology information which phase 2 of the recording scheme sets out to gather provided by these links.  Area Organisers or the BAS Verification Panel may occasionally ask to see specimens in order to authenticate early records. With published records, the date of the original field record should be given and the name of the original collector or Recorder if these are known. If not, the 'Recorder' should be listed as “Anon”. The bibliographic detail of the publication should be given, making clear when the date of publication differs from the date when the record was made. Similar information is required for collections of specimens in museums or those in private hands.

Historical records

Records made in the past are of importance to the Spider Recording Scheme, in addition to those that arise from current fieldwork. They provide a context in which to view modern records, and a base-line against which to judge changes in the status of species.

How should I send my records in?

Our preference is for people to computerise their own records using the Spider Recording Scheme methodology in MapMate link or standard biological recording software, and send them into the recording scheme in electronic format. Another possibility is an Excel spreadsheet with the data structured in a way which allows import into the Scheme's dataset. If you are using MapMate for your biological records, then please send these to your Area Organisers or the National Organiser contact on regular occasions using the MapMate synchronisation process. Excellent help on using MapMate has been provided by Martin Harvey and BSBI at http://mapmate.bsbi.org.uk/ link. This provides training videos, and covers a variety of topics including setting up MapMate, data entry, analysis, syncing and mapping. Martin also has an excellent website providing resources and guidance at http://sites.google.com/site/kitenetter/Home/mapmate link.

Records are also welcome on standard recording cards/forms, but in this case it may be some considerable time before these data are available for use in the scheme and on this website. Recording cards include:

  • the revised ‘field recording’ form (RA65 v.2) for a list of species from a single locality;
  • one of the single-species cards produced by the Biological Records Centre (BRC), ideally the GEN13.
The new RA65 card v.2 The new A4 recording form replaces the double-sided A5 record card (the old RA65), which was first printed in 1987. The new card includes completely updated species nomenclature, and lists the genera in taxonomic sequence, species in alphabetical sequence. We would prefer recorders to computerise their own data or switch to the new card, but it will not cause any problems, other than the loss of potentially valuable autecological data, if records are still submitted on remaining stocks of the old card.

When a batch of cards has been accumulated send them to the appropriate Area Organisers or, in the absence of an Area Organiser, to the National Organiser. However, it is much more time-consuming to process paper records than those in computerised format. Often this involves the records being transcribed onto standard recording cards. However, if, for example, you have records in a card index system and they are clearly laid out and legibly written, it should be possible to input them directly - please check with the National Organiser first.

Do I need to send in absolutely all my records?

We are interested in absolutely all spider records, since they can all help add to our knowledge of phenology and autecology. If you have, say 200 records of Araneus diadematus from your back garden, we would be more than happy to receive all 200 records, with full dates and male/female information. That’s because we are keen to build up information on the adult periods of British spiders. However, if you don’t feel you have time to submit all those records, please submit one record for each year as a minimum. Likewise, if you record the same species from several different sites within a single 10-km square, we would expect the majority of recorders to submit records from each site.

Difficult species

A number of spider species are difficult to identify or separate from other closely similar species, and regularly cause problems. To have difficulties in the identification of these or other species is nothing to be ashamed about! Please get problem specimens checked by an expert, since the accuracy of identification of records submitted to the scheme is crucial to their value. We are gradually producing specific guidance on difficult species.

Identification service

All recorders are welcome to submit British spiders to the National Organiser, Peter Harvey, 32 Lodge Lane, Grays, Essex RM16 2YP, contact, for identification, enclosing post & packing to cover the return of the specimens. Batches of up to 10 specimens can be sent without advance warning, but please check first if sending more than that. Specimens must have locality and date data attached. If you think you know what species it is, no matter how tentatively, please add a determination label - it is really valuable to see where identification problems can arise. Finally, though you might get your specimens back pretty quickly, you might not - please be patient!

Misidentifications

There is an established process for correcting identification errors in the database. If you discover that you have submitted a record that was misidentified, please let the Area Organiser and National Organiser know and the necessary corrections will be made to the database.

What do I do if I think my records might already have been submitted?

Duplicate records are absolutely no problem. In the past, efforts have been made in biological recording to reduce duplicate records, but in the present day, computer memory is cheap enough that we need not worry. We would rather have your records twice (or more times) than not at all, so if in doubt, (re-)submit!

What happens to my records?

Firstly, we will check over all records and may ask for further information, or ask to see specimens to confirm exceptional records. Secondly, records will be computerised as necessary, and validated. The validation process involves running automated checks on dates and locality information, e.g. checking that the grid reference matches the vice-county. If any problems are found which cannot easily be solved, you may be contacted again to help resolve them. Validated records are then added to the Spider Recording Scheme database.

How does the SRS inter-relate with Local Records Centres and County Recorders?

Spider Recording Scheme Area Organisers very often also act as County Recorders for their local county. They are usually very good at collating and sometimes also computerising records, and then forwarding checked and validated cards and datasets to the national scheme. We would like to promote similar arrangements with any county recorders not already part of the SRS. If you have submitted records to a LRC or a county spider recorder who is not also an Area Organiser for the SRS, and you are wondering whether they have been forwarded on to the SRS, the answer is ‘probably not!’. Please either submit your records directly to the National Organiser, or put us in touch with whoever holds your records locally.

Policy on use of records and access to records

Records entered into the Spider Recording Scheme database will be used, where appropriate, as follows:
  • to improve understanding of the distributions, natural history and ecology of British spiders,
  • to promote the study of spiders,
  • to conserve spiders and their habitats.
It is intended that records will be made available to all, principally through this website, with appropriate safeguards. However, the following exceptions apply:
  • Information on the localities of species considered vulnerable to over-collecting will be released at the discretion of the scheme organiser and the British Arachnological Society,
  • Information may not be released if there is considered to be a reasonable chance of one or more of the following occurring:
  • failure to give suitable credit to the original recorder or acknowledgment of the use of SRS data,
  • misinterpretation of SRS data in such a way as to harm the objectives of use stated above,
  • abuse of the SRS dataset in such a way as to glean personal information about the people contributing to the dataset,
  • unauthorised sale or distribution of SRS data.
Consultancies and developers requiring data for environmental assessments will be expected to pay commercial rates for the work involved in providing access to recording scheme data and to apply to Local Record Centres or the county recorders of natural history societies for access to the relevant data.