Data and Labels

The most critical portion of any sort of study is the collection of accurate data.  To ensure that the spider visual record or voucher specimen is to be of most value it is crucial that information about the record be made in written form.  The best way to do this is to write it down immediately.  Memory is imperfect and often incomplete. If you write down the particulars of where a spider was found, including the situation as well as location, there is a greater chance that you will provide accurate and complete data.  For spider specimens, this means putting a label directly into the vial with the spider.  Labels glued or tied to the outside of the container inevitably are lost or inadvertently exchanged with other labels.  Labels in the fluid with the spider are much safer.  Obviously the label must be relatively small to fit in a vial, but with care a clear label can be written on a small slip of durable paper or a piece cut from a note card.  Most professional biologists use permanent-ink pens for labels, these can be obtained from art or office supply stores as ?India ink? or ?permanent ink? pens.  Alcohol will dissolve most inks, so you need to test the ink in alcohol.  Ball-point pen inks are almost always unsuitable.  The most inexpensive method is to write in pencil.  This is permanent in alcohol and will not fade with time.  Some workers print labels for commonly-visited localities.  This is an excellent method provided that the printing is permanent.  Sadly, most computer printer inks are water or alcohol soluble. Laser printed and photocopy labels will work in the short term but after ten years or so the lettering may fall off the paper.  There is nothing like the experience of picking up a vial with a valued specimen and noticing that the label has dissolved or that the lettering has separated and lies like black alphabet soup at the bottom of the vial!
 The label itself must include the exact locality and date that the spider was collected.  Additional information about the technique used and the particular situation can be written on the back of the label.  You may also wish to include a field number that refers to more extensive notes which you may record in a field notebook.  If you do this you should provide a copy of these field notes at the time of contribution of the specimen to a museum collection.

Sample Label:

Front of Label         Back of Label

OH, Marion Co.

2 km SW Marion

in old field near road

12 OCT 1998

collected by sweep net at 11 am

to Voucher Specimens & Collecting Spiders

to Permits

to Fluids for Preserving Spider Specimens

to Collecting Techniques

to How to Study Spiders

to Spiders in Ohio homepage

last revised 29 February 2000 / prepared by Clay Harris