Myth: Mail a dead spider in an envelope

Myth: Mail a dead spider in an envelope

October 23, 2015
Rod Crawford

Myth: Spider specimens submitted for identification can be mailed like a letter in a common envelope.

Fact: Believe it or not, people actually do this. A little reflection should lead anyone to realize that letters in envelopes, even padded or cardboard ones, go through heavy-duty canceling machines in the post office, and any spider that is not protected in a rigid box or bottle will be crushed to powder. Powdered spiders are seldom identifiable!

It is best to preserve spiders in a non-leaky container of rubbing alcohol before they have dried out. (Do not use formalin, which is not a preservative for spiders). Dried spiders are far from ideal for identification purposes, but in case of need they should be packed with soft tissue paper (so they won't rattle around) in a rigid box or other container.

pulverized spider remains

Pulverized: a spider mailed loose in an envelope of any kind is liable to look like this when it arrives. Scanned from specimen.
Photo: Rod Crawford

spider preserved in vial of alcohol and labeled

A properly-preserved spider in well-sealed vial of 70% alcohol. Note enclosed label giving exact site & date of collection!
Photo: Rod Crawford

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