Take a photo

Use a piece of grass to 'tickle' spiders out of their burrows for photographing

Once you've found a baboon spider you'll need to photograph it. If the spider is in a burrow or silk retreat under a rock you'll need to coax it out to be able to get a good photograph. With a little practice and skill you can learn to 'tickle' baboon spiders out of their burrows. This involves inserting a piece of grass into the burrow and wiggling it about to mimic a struggling insect. Shine a torch down the hole at the same time to see if you are getting the spiders attention. Slowly withdraw the grass, still wiggling it and keeping the spider interested to draw it up to the burrow entrance. You will need to be patient. Some spiders readily leave their burrows with this technique, others are much more stubborn. Be patient and keep tickling around the entrance of the burrow and away from it to lure the spider out of the hole. Keep a stick or spoon nearby to close the burrow behind the spider when it comes out to prevent it disappearing down the hole again. You'll see the spider will try to get back into its burrow once it realises it's been tricked. Don't worry, you only need a few minutes to photograph it and then return it to it's home. Alternatively, if you are staying in the area you can mark the location of the burrow and return at night. Baboon spiders are largely nocturnal and sit at the entrance of their burrow at night waiting for potential prey items to come wandering by. Coaxing them out of the burrow is much easier when it's dark.

Please note that we do not advocate digging up spiders for atlasing purposes. Once the spider's burrow is destroyed it cannot quickly contruct a new one, and it becomes susceptible to predation, overheating, or dehydration on the surface. Burrow excavation should only be used when spiders are specifically being collected for research purposes, with all of the necessary permits in place.

When photographing spiders you must make sure that the quality of the photograph is good, and that suffient detail of the spider is visible for experts to be able to identify the spider. Take several photos from a range of angles - the most important is a shot from directly above the spider, and from the side at an angle of about 45ยบ. Try to photograph the spider in a position with the legs spread out, not all 'bunched up'. Get the front legs into the image, these often have important characters for identifying the males.

A team of atlasers at work. Spiders make great subjects for photography.

You can use any type of camera to take photos for atlasing purposes, just as long as the images are clear. A cell phone camera or point-and-shoot will be sufficient if used properly. If you are using a smartphone make sure that image geotagging is switched on in your settings. If you want to start taking your spider photography seriously you will need to invest in better camera equipment. Whatever you use make sure the subject takes up most of the frame when photographing spiders for atlas purposes - you dont want to waste your megapixels. Let the camera focus before you take the photo and try to avoid shaking the camera (nervousness can be problem for some, but dont worry, baboon spiders often don't jump). Experiment with the flash to see what gives you the best results in terms of sharpness and colour correctness, especially with cell phone cameras. The flash can often distort colours. If possible place something next to spider for a size reference, such as a coin, matchbox or cigarette lighter.

For legal and ethical reasons we cannot accept photos of spiders that are obviously taken in captivity for atlasing purposes.

You may at first be concerned about handling baboon spiders in the ways described above. After all these are large animals with impressive fangs and they can deliver a very painful bite. However, most baboon spider species are relatively placid by nature and if handled in the correct manner are very unlikely to bite. However, look out for the defensive posture that these spiders show when they feel threatened. They raise up their front legs and pedipalps and strike at the ground or anything that moves nearby. If the spider gets a fright while being handled it might run off very quickly for a meter or two. If the spider is hurt or threatened it will show this defensive posture and apparently aggressive behavior, but all it is trying to do is protect itself. Don't take a chance though - if you get too close you will be bitten. On the other hand, if the spider is not showing this defensive posture you can calmly move it around with a stick or spoon to get it into a good position for photographing. It is even possible to pick them up quite safely, but get someone experienced to show you how before attempting this yourself.

When you have finished photographing the spider you must place it back in its burrow or retreat. It may not go back willingly! The easiest is often to capture the spider in a glass or jar and place it directly back into its burrow entrance, or under the rock it was using as cover.

Examples from SpiderMAP

The most important part of atlasing is to keep accurate data records. Sightings and photographs without good data are unfortunately of no real scientific or conservation value. For incidental sightings, such as a spider that comes into the house, your memory should be sufficient for where and when you saw it and you can enter this information directly into SpiderMAP when you upload your record. On the other hand, if you are travelling and specifically atlasing baboon spiders and other animals you should keep a notebook of some form. This could be a pen and paper notebook, which many people find the simplest and easiest, or you could keep your notes on a smartphone or tablet computer. The basic information you need to record is WHERE you saw the spider (locality name, such as the farm or game reserve, neighborhood, etc, nearest town, and GPS coordinates), WHEN you saw the spider (date), and WHO saw the spider (i.e. who was with you). You can also record additional information in your notebook, such as the method used to find the spider (if you were specifically looking for spiders), habitat information such as soil type, geology, vegetation, and conditions such as previous rainfall, temperature, and wind if you find male spiders wandering around. You can also record behavioral information if you are lucky to observe something interesting. You can use your notebook for keeping a life list, i.e. a list of the species you have seen and where you first saw them, which is quite fun if you have a competitive edge. Having accurate records is very important when uploading your data, and you will find it very useful to refer back to your notes when managing your photos, revisiting areas you've been to before, or having discussions with other atlasers about your sightings.