Can Malaise traps be used to sample spiders for biodiversity assessment?

Anne Oxbrough, Tom Gittings, Thomas C. Kelly, John O'Halloran

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Malaise traps are typically used to sample a range of flying insect groups; however non-target taxa such as spiders may also be collected in large numbers. In this study, spiders were sampled in peatlands and wet grasslands and catches in Malaise and pitfall traps were compared in order to determine the adequacy of Malaise traps for use in spider biodiversity assessment. Overall, the number of species and individuals caught in Malaise and pitfall traps were comparable, although more species were sampled in Malaise traps in locations with a greater structural diversity of the vegetation. The spider fauna sampled by the Malaise traps differed from that of the pitfall traps, but both methods consistently separated the species assemblages by biotope. These results demonstrate that Malaise traps are effective at sampling spiders and indicate that they can be used in biodiversity assessment. In addition the complementary species sampled by each method mean that employing both techniques will be useful where a full inventory of the species is required. The authors do not suggest that Malaise traps should be used solely to sample spiders; however, if traps are set to collect insects, identification of the spiders sampled may reduce the need to employ additional sampling techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-179
JournalJournal of Insect Conservation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Biodiversity assessment
  • By-catch
  • Invertebrate sampling
  • Malaise traps
  • Pitfall traps
  • Spiders (Araneae)


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