Daddy Longlegs

 

Harvestman on begonia

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I learned that what I’ve always called daddy longlegs spiders others know as Harvestmen, and in fact they aren’t spiders at all, altho they are related to spiders in the same way as scorpions, ticks and centipedes. Physically while spiders’ bodies have a head part and an abdomen, a harvestman’s head is incorporated into the body and they only have two eyes vs a spider’s eight. They are also harmless, lacking venom glands.

Harvestmen may eat aphids, caterpillars, beetles, flies, small slugs, snails, earthworms, spiders, even other Harvestmen. Most of them also eat decaying plant and animal matter, bird droppings and fungi. Sounds like a useful little critter to have around! Apparently if you watch them after a meal, they draw their legs one at a time through their jaws to clean them.

If you try to handle a Harvestman one or more of its eight legs may fall off, a possible adaptation to help it escape from a predator (they will also release a strong odor as a defense against predators, which include birds). However, the legs don’t grow back and loss of legs can slow the Harvestman down. They are also important sensory organs, loaded with nerves and thousands of tiny sense organs inside the microscopic slits in the legs. They also serve as ears, nose, tongue and possibly even as supplementary ‘eyes.’ Every ten days or so a Harvestman will split open and shed its exoskeleton, taking about 20 minutes to drag its long legs from their old casings.

The things you learn as a photographer/blogger!

Text based on info from http://www.backyardnature.net

 

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20 thoughts on “Daddy Longlegs

  1. Beautiful and love your processing! One other little “fact” about them….if you go camping, no matter how careful you are at keeping your tent flap zipped up, one will find its way inside and crawl across your face all night while you TRY to sleep! lol

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    • Thanks, Julie! I’ve really acquired new respect for harvestmen since I researched the info for the post — and I learned a lot after I posted, so there’s more! One of the other things I learned is that harvestmen don’t have silk glands and so don’t make webs. OTOH cellar spiders apparently are also called Daddy Longlegs and are often confused with harvestmen because of their long legs and small bodies, so if you look closely you will probably see your web-makers have waists, or if your spindly guys are indeed harvestmen they are not your web builders. πŸ™‚ I guess now I shall have to research cellar spiders, lol!

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      • Hey Katrina … oh what interesting info. And it seems based on this that I have a garage full of cellar spiders. Yes they do have waists and are particularly good at making webs πŸ™‚

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      • Seems so. πŸ™‚ Apparently cellar spiders are also harmless to people but quite aggressive little predators of insects including other spiders if food is scarce. These are the little guys that vibrate rapidly on their webs if the web is touched. They can live up to 3 years.

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  2. Really lovely – I’m just now after many years of viewing them with fear and disgust learning to appreciate the beauty of spiders. Had one in my little garden this past Fall and she fascinated me to no end. Thanks for the info too – always learning πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you, Chris. Since I posted that info I’ve learned more about these fascinating little critters, they have actually moved up several notches in my opinion about them. And it boggled my mind to read that three well preserved 400 million year old harvestman fossils were discovered in Scotland, in essentially the same form as they exist now. Clearly a very successful lifeform (there are several thousand variations of them today). To put that into a little perspective, they were around for possibly up to 200 million years before dinosaurs came along…wow.

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    • Thanks, Cybele. πŸ™‚ I may do more posts like this. There are so many little critters that can be quite beneficial to us but have a bad reputation or give peeps the heeby jeebies. For my part I shall be a whole lot more solicitous of harvestmen now when I encounter one in the garden.

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