16 June 2009

House fauna: Pholcus phalangioides

Pholcus phalangioides

Plenty of these hanging around my place, usually in high corners. "Daddy longlegs" spiders are harmless unless you're a small insect, or even another spider — I've seen them wrapping up and eating jumping spiders and even white-tailed spiders. The urban myth about their venom being the most potent known seems to be based on no evidence — I know of no reputable research that confirms it.
Superficially, they look drab, etiolated and uninteresting, with the iridescence usually not apparent, but in the right light (I used flash/strobe) and close up, they're rather beautiful. This is a female, but it's still all right to call her a daddy longlegs spider (do make a habit of including "spider" for these, because "daddy longlegs" is also used as a common name for some harvestmen and crane flies).

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

10 comments:

Anne-Marie said...

this is indeed a beautiful photo of Pholcus phalangiodes. How amazing to see such detail that most of us never notice. Although, I do think she looks pretty scary, in an Alien kind of way.

What does etiolated mean?

pohanginapete said...

Yes, I'm glad she's as small as she is, Anne-Marie!

"Etiolated" is usually used to describe plants grown in very dim light; typically they're pale and "leggy" (elongated; stretched out). If you've ever seen a seedling that's germinated under a board lying on the ground, you'll know what I mean. I intended it to refer mainly to the long, thin form of these spiders.

the watercats said...

We have a billion of these in our place too.. or something very similar, they seem very adept at creating tons of web, which, when you have open fires to clean, become dust and ash sculptures. The abdomen in this picture looks like it was drawn on, there's something about it that looks like a painting. Oh to have a marvellous camera!.. *sighs...

pohanginapete said...

Watercats, you mean you have a colony of sculptors in your house? Cool! ;^)

Although I use a DSLR and have some nice lenses, it's perfectly possible to produce wonderful photographs of invertebrates with a simple point-and-shoot type of digital camera. Bev Wigney's proof of that, and she wrote an excellent post about it on her older blog:
http://magickcanoe.com/blog/2007/09/28/insect-photography-101/

Cheers!

Barbara said...

Ahhhh ... vertigo, I'm thinking vertigo and maybe some ballet. I love her 'knees,' too. Beautiful image of life on a thread:)

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Barbara. These spiders do "dance" in a sense: when disturbed they sometimes vibrate rapidly. I guess it makes them a harder target.

AJB said...

Interestingly (to me anyway :) the common introduced harvestman is Phalangium opilio which suggests that the spider name is a reference to the harvestman... 'Opilio' refers to 'shepard'.

There are some *very* cool native harvestmen. Never seen on inside a house though.

AJB.

pohanginapete said...

Andrew, some of those native harvestmen certainly are spectacular. The first time I ever saw a male of one of the long-legged group, I had no idea what it was (it was a long time ago — don't ask). Fortunately, I photographed it and got an i.d. from a zoologist. i believe the taxonomy's still in a mess, though.

Michael said...

We have Daddy Long Legs too. But they aren't spiders. Six legs.

pohanginapete said...

Michael, those'll be crane flies, Tipulidae. New Zealand has a particularly well-developed crane fly fauna — hundreds of species, some of them weird.