What Does A Daddy Long Leg Spider Look Like?

Long-bodied Cellar Spiders

What are Cellar Spiders?

Cellar spiders are a species of spider belonging to the group of animals known as “arachnids .” There are both long-bodied as well as short-bodied cellar spiders . As their name implies, cellar spiders are found in dark and damp places like cellars and basements. They are also sometimes referred to as “ daddy long legs» because of their very long, thin legs . There are about 20 species of cellar spiders in the United States and Canada.

Cellar Spider Identification

Pest Stats

Color

Pale yellow to light brown or gray

Shape

Long skinny legs with a small body

Antennae

Region

Found throughout U.S.

What Do Cellar Spiders Look Like?

All cellar spiders have oval-shaped bodies that range in color from pale yellowish to light brown or gray . Adult female long-bodied cellar spiders have a body length of about ¼-5/16” (7-8 mm) with front legs about 1 ¾-1 15/16” (45-50 mm) long. Adult male long-bodied cellar spiders have a body length of about ¼” (6 mm). On the other hand, short-bodied cellar spiders have much shorter bodies as their name implies. Adult female short-bodied cellar spiders have a body length of about 1/16” (2 mm) with front legs about 5/16” (8.5 mm) long. Adult male short-bodied cellar spiders have a body length of about 1/16” (1.6 mm) with front legs about 3/8” (9.5 mm) long.

Like all arachnids, cellar spiders have eight legs ; however, theirs are very elongated and thin compared to other spiders. Cellar spiders also have eight eyes that are arranged into two widely-spaced lateral groups of three each and two eyes in between. They have a cylindrical abdomen that is about three times longer than it is wide.

Long-bodied cellar spiders are also similar in appearance to harvestmen — which are arachn ids , but technically not spiders— given their equally noticeable, lengthier legs . As such , the “daddy long legs” nickname also applies to harvestmen, but , by contrast, these arachnids have oval bodies that are more reddish in color compared to cellar spiders .

Cellar Spider Prevention

How to Prevent Cellar Spiders

To keep long-bodied cellar spiders from entering structures in the first place, seal cracks around the foundation of homes and buildings with a silicone-based caulk. Homeowners and business owners should consider using yellow light bulbs for exterior light i ng , as they may reduce the number of cellar spiders and other insects that are typically attracted to white-light sources. Additionally, it is good practice to consider using a dehumidifier in basements, cellars and crawl spaces, since cellar spiders thrive in moisture. Homeowners should also store firewood at least twenty feet from the home on a raised structure to deter spiders from hiding out in the wood. Make sure to wear gloves when moving the wood, and inspect it carefully before bringing any wood pieces indoors.

Inside, keep clothes and shoes from piling up on the floor and shake them out before putting them on. Also, consider using tightly sealed plastic boxes to store seldom-used items, such as boots, baseball mitts, skates, etc. in the basement, garage or other dark are as.

Spider bites can be painful, but a spider’s venom is the real concern. Thankfully, most spiders don’t bite, and 98% are harmless. For more information on spiders, check out the spider pest guides.

Find a Pest Control Professional

How to Get Rid of Cellar Spiders

Wondering how to get rid of cellar spiders? If a cellar spider infestation is suspected, contact a licensed pest control professional for assistance. Spider control is a multi -step process that includes inspection of the home or building, accurate identification, prevention, sanitation and mechanical measures.

Cellar Spider Education

Habits

C ellar spiders construct loose, irregular webs in areas with higher relative humidity and moisture , such as homes, sheds, barns and warehouses. Within these structures, cellar spider webs are usually found in dark and damp places, including but not limited to the corners of eaves, windows and ceilings in cellars, basements , crawlspaces and garages. In commercial buildings, cellar spiders tend to spin webs in corners near doors that are left open.

Cellar spiders prefer to hang upside down in their webs as they wait for prey, which typically consists of other spiders and insects. When bothered, a cellar spider will repeatedly pulse its body to make its entire web shake. These pulsations help to entrap any insects that have approached the web and become the spider’s next meal .

See also:  What Kind Of Spider Has A Yellow Back?

Unlike species that expend their webs and then make new ones, or clean their webs to reuse them, cellar spiders will continue to layer additional, new webs on top of their old ones. As a result, the webs can build up in excessive volume in a somewhat short period of time, creating a noticeable cobweb appearance in the home or building.

Female long-bodied cellar spiders may produce up to three egg sacs each containing 13-60 eggs t hroughout the course of their life . The sacs are created from a thin layer of silk that is see-through. The cluster of eggs gives the sac the appearance of an unripe blackberry. The females then carry the egg sacs around with them in their mouths until the eggs hatch, as opposed to resting them in their web like other spider species do. Female short-bodies cellar spiders produce a similar egg sac containing 10-27 eggs each that they also carry in their jaws. The emerging spiderlings often cling to their mother for a short time. There are five molts before the spiderlings reach full maturity – a process that takes one full year. Adult long-bodied cellar spiders usually live for about two years.

Threats

Long-bodied c ellar spiders are considered nuisance pests, probably more so because of their vast webs being an eyesore in homes and commercial buildings. Historically, cellar spiders are not known to bite humans and , theref ore , do not pos e a h ealth threat .

Are Cellar Spiders Poisonous?

Long-bodied cellar spiders are not proven to be poisonous. There is a myth that their venom is one of the deadliest, and that their short fangs keep them from injecting this fatal venom into humans. However, there is no research proving this statement to be true.

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Cellar Spiders

Facts, Identification and Control

Scientific Name

Appearance

There are two groups of cellar spiders, the long-bodied cellar spiders that have legs up to two inches long and the short-bodied cellar spiders whose legs are about ½ inch long.

The most common Phlocidae in the United States is the long-bodied cellar spider. Because of their long legs, cellar spiders are often mistaken for the “daddy longlegs.”

How Did I Get Cellar Spiders?

Homes with white outdoor lights that attract insects or easily accessed entry points, like foundation cracks and gaps around doors, are most likely to attract cellar spiders. Once inside, these pests prefer dark basements, attics, and other protected spaces.

How Serious Are Cellar Spiders?

Cellar spiders rarely bite humans, but may be a nuisance. It can be hard to keep up with removing their webs because, unlike other spiders, this species doesn’t consume their old webs before building new ones. Cellar spiders also like to live close to each other, so populations can multiply quickly.

How Do I Get Rid of Them?

To help control cellar spiders, follow these tips:

  • Use a broom or vacuum to remove webs, egg sacs, and spiders.
  • Reduce the spider’s food sources by using insect prevention and control measures.
  • Use proper ventilation and dehumidifiers to reduce the humidity in your home or business.
  • Prevent pests from entering your home or business by sealing cracks and crevices around doors, windows and other entry points.
  • Always contact your pest management professional before using insecticides to ensure you are using the product safely and effectively.

Signs of Infestation

Cellar spiders frequently infest homes and warehouses and make their webs in protective corners of basements, closets, attics, outbuildings and rock piles.

Behavior, Diet and Habits

The cellar spider is often found in damp locations like basements, crawl spaces and cellars, which is how it got its common name. Male and female cellar spiders may be found in climate-controlled structures year round.

Webs

The web of the cellar spider is irregular, with no discernable pattern. Although their bites are harmless to humans, their webs are unsightly and profuse: unlike other spider species, cellar spiders prefer to live within close proximity to one another, creating troublesome communities within human dwellings.

What do they eat?

They prefer to eat small moths, flies, mosquitoes and other insects or spiders that are found near their webs. Like most other spiders, cellar spiders are highly adaptive and successful predators. Their diet consists primarily of insects, which they lure and trap within their webs before encasing them in cocoons. When food supplies in their environment are insufficient, these spiders travel to other webs and pretend to be trapped insects. As the other spider attempts to catch and consume it, the cellar spider attacks the unsuspecting arachnid.

Also known as vibrating spiders, cellar spiders utilize wobbly, vibrating movements to confuse predators and attackers.

Bites

Not a medically important spider, cellar spiders aren’t known to bite people. However, this has not detoured the existence of an urban myth indicating that cellar spider venom is among the most deadly in the world, but the length of the spider’s fangs are too short to deliver the venom during a bite.

There is no scientific based information to support the deadliness of their venom, so there is no reason to assume this is true. But, are the fangs too short to penetrate human skin? Cellar spiders do have short fangs, termed uncate by spider experts. But, so do brown recluse spiders that undeniably bite humans.

See also:  When Should You Go To The Hospital For A Spider Bite?

Life Cycle & Reproduction

Cellar spiders hatch from eggs, and when hatched, look like small adults who shed their skin as they grow. The female spiders encase their eggs in silk webs where they are protected against spider predators. The spider reaches maturity in about a year. Once mature, the spider can live another two years.

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Daddy Longlegs: Arachnids, but Not Spiders

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  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

People often mistake a daddy longlegs, also called a harvestman, for a spider. Daddy longlegs do have some spider-like qualities since, like spiders, they are classified as arachnids.

Like all arachnids, they do have eight legs and tend to skitter about the way spiders do. We often see them in the same places where we see spiders. In fact, daddy longlegs are more like scorpions than spiders.

Arachnids

Other critters that are arachnids include scorpions, mites, and ticks, and those arthropods are certainly not spiders. In fact, arachnids are not insects either. Insects are animals with six legs, wings, or antennae. Arachnids have none of the above.

Opiliones Compared to Araneae

The daddy longlegs belongs to the order Opiliones. Unlike in spiders, the number of eyes of daddy longlegs, as well as body type, sex organs, and defensive mechanisms, are all different.

In opilionids, the head, thorax, and abdomen are fused into one thoracic cavity. Spiders, of the order Araneae, have a distinct waist between the cephalothorax and the abdomen. Opilionids have just two eyes, compared to the usual eight in spiders.

Daddy longlegs also do not produce silk, unlike spiders. They do not spin webs, and they do not use webs to capture prey. If you find a harvestman in a web, it does not live there. It probably would like to be rescued from the spider that is about to eat it.

Finally, daddy longlegs are not venomous. They do not have fangs, nor venom glands. Most spiders, with only a few exceptions, produce venom.

Special Adaptations

Daddy longlegs stink when threatened, thanks to defensive stink glands, which have been observed to repulse predators. Daddy longlegs are usually extremely well camouflaged. During the day, many of them hide in crevasses, and when disturbed, they usually curl up and remain motionless for several minutes by playing dead—which works extraordinarily well.

Anyone who has tried to catch a daddy longlegs knows they have a tendency to shed their legs. Grab one by the foot, and it promptly lets go of the entire leg and runs off. They will voluntarily shed legs to get away from predators, but sadly a new appendage does not grow back if it is already full grown. There is some hope if it is in the nymph stage that the leg might grow back.

Its legs are not just vital to locomotion, they are also nerve centers. Through its legs, the daddy longlegs may sense vibrations, smells, and tastes. Pull the legs off a harvestman, and you might be limiting its ability to make sense of the world.

Mating Behavior and Sex Organs

Unlike spiders that use an indirect method of transferring sperm to females, the harvestman does tend to have elaborate mating rituals and a specialized organ capable of depositing sperm directly into the female.

In some harvestman species, there are «sneaky males» also known as beta males, who camouflage themselves as females, get close to a female and plant its seed into unwitting females.

Other Daddy Longlegs

Some of the confusion over whether the daddy longlegs is a spider comes from the fact that there are two are small creatures with that name, and one actually is a spider.

The daddy longlegs spider is the cellar spider. It is pale gray or tan and has banding or chevron markings. Crane flies, which resemble large mosquitoes, are sometimes called daddy longlegs as well.

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Daddy Longlegs: Spiders & Other Critters

Daddy longlegs is a term used to refer to three different types of critters, and only one of them is a spider. A common belief is that daddy longlegs spiders are the most venomous spiders in the world. However, that is an urban myth.

Harvestmen & crane flies

The term “daddy longlegs” most properly refers to an arachnid in the order Opiliones, which are also called harvestmen, according to the department of entomology, soils, and plant science at Clemson University. This outdoor arachnid typically lives under logs or rocks. Unlike spiders, it has only one pill-like body segment. It also has only two eyes, does not spin webs, and is not venomous. Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine wrote that, like the spider, it has eight very long legs that can be 30 times as long as its body.

In the Southern United States as well as some parts of Canada and the United Kingdom, the crane fly is also sometimes called a daddy longlegs, according to The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. This distinctive bug, with six long legs and two large wings, is not a spider, nor an arachnid, but is an insect.

Cellar spiders

Another creature often called daddy longlegs is a spider in the family Pholcidae. The common name for these creatures used to be cellar spiders, but arachnologists have started to call them «daddy longlegs spiders» because of the common confusion, reported the department of entomology at the University of California, Riverside.

These daddy longlegs have two body segments — a cephalothorax and an unsegmented abdomen. Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal, an arachnologist at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, described the abdomen as “very prominent” and “either round or oval shaped.” Like other spiders, these daddy longlegs have eight eyes, which Sewlal said are “arranged into a central pair and two clusters of three on either side of this pair.”

See also:  What Does A Spider Web Look Like?

Daddy longlegs spiders range in color from cream to brown or gray, and according to SF Bay Wildlife, some species have brown stripes on the ventral side of their body. The daddy longlegs’ characteristic long, skinny legs are several times the length of its small body. Daddy longlegs spiders can range from 2 to 10 mm long, but their legs can grow up to 50 mm according to the entomology department at Pennsylvania State University. The female is slightly bigger than the male.

According to Sewlal, daddy longlegs’ long legs allow them to put less of their leg in contact with their web silk, making it less likely for them to become caught in their own web. She said this is the case for most web-weaving spiders, which have longer, slenderer legs than wandering, or ambushing spiders.

Daddy longlegs spider habits

Daddy longlegs spiders live on every continent except Antarctica. They prefer damp climates but can nevertheless thrive in deserts. According to the department of entomology at the University of Kentucky, they are especially successful in urban areas where they spin thin, tangled webs in ceiling corners, under furniture, in garages, barns, attics, and basements, and other places where they’re unlikely to be disturbed. Daddy longlegs may be useful spiders because they can help keep the population of other insects and spiders down, according to the Queensland Museum.

The daddy longlegs spider’s web does not have adhesive properties for catching prey. According to BioKIDS, insects and other spiders get trapped in the confusing, irregular web structure. Then, the daddy longlegs covers the prey with silk and administers its fatal bite.

Sewlal described two fascinating defense mechanisms of daddy longlegs spiders. She said that some neotropical species engage in an action called “whirling.” She described it as when “the spider holds onto the underside of its web and swings its body in horizontal circles until it looks like a blur to the human eye. This is a defense mechanism and serves to make the spider appear bigger than it really is. This is particularly useful since they have visual predators such as birds, lizards and even other spiders like some species of jumping spiders.

“Another behavior that has a similar purpose is called ‘bobbing,’” said Sewlal. Again, the spider holds onto the underside of its web, and there it “repeatedly bends and straightens its legs like it is doing squats.”

Mating

Daddy longlegs spiders can mate throughout the year. According to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, like most spiders, the male squirts sperm onto the web then sucks it up into his pedipalps, a pair of sensory appendages near the mouth. It then inserts the pedipalps into the female’s epigynum (external genital opening), and she carries the sperm around with her until she lays her eggs.

According to Clemson University, daddy longlegs spiders carry their egg sacs in their jaws at all times — with the exception of eating — until the eggs hatch. Then, the newly hatched babies crawl onto the mother’s body for a brief stretch of time. It takes about a year for the baby spiders to develop from egg to adult. Male daddy longlegs typically live for about one year and die after mating. Females can live for three years.

Venom myth busted

According to urban legend, daddy longlegs are the most venomous spiders in the world, but their fangs are too weak to penetrate human skin. However, this myth was busted on the Discovery Channel show «Mythbusters.» A daddy longlegs spider was coaxed into biting the arm of the show’s co-host, Adam Savage. He reported nothing more than a very mild burning sensation from the spider’s venom that lasted just a few seconds.

According to the Australian Museum, the myth may have come about because the daddy longlegs spider can kill the dangerous Australian redback spider, but that is done through its ingenious web-catching technique, not its venom.

Taxonomy/classification

Daddy longlegs spiders (Cellar spiders)

According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), there are more than 80 genera of daddy longlegs spiders and about 1,000 species. The taxonomy of cellar spiders is:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Subkingdom: Bilateria
  • Infrakingdom: Protostomia
  • Superphylum: Ecdysozoa
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Family: Pholcidae

Harvestmen

The taxonomy of harvestmen, according to ITIS, is:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Subkingdom: Bilateria
  • Infrakingdom: Protostomia
  • Superphylum: Ecdysozoa
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Opiliones

There are about 6,500 species of harvestmen.

Crane flies

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Subkingdom: Bilateria
  • Infrakingdom: Protostomia
  • Superphylum: Ecdysozoa
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Hexapoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Subclass: Pterygota
  • Infraclass: Neoptera
  • Superorder: Holometabola
  • Order: Diptera
  • Suborder: Nematocera
  • Infraorder: Tipulomorpha
  • Family: Tipulidae

There are three subfamilies, more than 500 genera and more than 15,000 species of crane fly.

Additional resources

  • Learn more about Jo-Anne Sewlal’s research on orb-weaving spiders.
  • The Kentucky Critter Files discusses cellar spiders.
  • BioKIDS: Pholcidae

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