Book Review: How to Know the Spiders by B.J. Kaston

BLUF: This is the best book about the arachnids that I have ever read. I’ve gone into quite a few books on this topic but never have I come across one so detailed in spider anatomy, behavior, and habitats. The anatomical details are incredible and serve as a perfect source for spider identification. Most public references give you a general description of body parts but B.J. Kaston goes much further. Just about all of us know the basics of spider legs, cephalothorax, chelicera, pedipalps, and abdomens but did you know that there are many more body parts identified within those body parts? And did you know about the “balloon spiders” that create a web deigned to be caught by the wind so that they can fly away to a new location? That was news to me. Reading this book you will learn and see the vast number of spider species and sub species, and you will learn exactly how to identify them. I very much like the description of various spider web types and locations. This, too, is an extremely useful tool for spider identification. Why did I get so excited about these animals to begin with? Because there are so many of them everywhere! Yes, we all are familiar with the abundance of spider webs around our homes. Many, of course, are the “orb weavers” who create those big circular webs hanging around trees. But walk out around your property after a light rain or misty morning and you will see hundreds of webs from ground to trees and in between rocks. Go hiking and you will see them alongside ponds and creeks, find them under logs and rocks, and see them on top of tiny flowers. B.J. Kaston delves into this and explains the species. He also explains how to capture and raise them as pets. And he recommends a very easy, yet fascinating thing to do – go out at night with a flashlight. I did it, and B.J. was right. Several times I discovered bright shining arachnid eyes staring back at me!

            I hope you are able to find this book. I found my copy in a library. B.J. Kaston’s books are on Amazon, but the one I am referring to, the 3rd edition, is no longer available for some reason. A much earlier edition from 1953 is there. I have not read that one.

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