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Taxonomy terms

Daddy-long-legs spider (Pholcus phalangioides)

Daddy long legs

Daddy-long-legs are a common “house spider”, setting up their webs in the corners of rooms and under furniture – any sheltered positions. They are sometimes called cellar spiders as they are often found in basements.

They are thought to have originated in Europe but are now found in all continents apart from Antarctica.

Daddy-long-legs have a body length of around 9 mm, but their legs can be up to 50 mm long and vary in colour from beige to pale brown.

They exhibit a strange behaviour when disturbed – gyrating rapid and vibrating the web, so the spider becomes a blur! The reason they are sometime called vibrating spiders.

Not to be confused with harvestman spiders, which are also called daddy-long-legs but are of the order Opiliones. Harvestman are more closely related to scorpions and are identified by having the appearance of a single body segment (actually the two body segments are fused together).

Web:

Daddy-long-legs webs are messy and irregular. They are not sticky, with the spider reliant on speed to capture any prey that enters the web.

Mating:

The male spider generally tries to mate with the larger females. Mating may take several hours.

Eggs:

After laying her eggs, the female wraps them in a silk package, which she carries under her body until they hatch.

Daddy-long-legs baby spiders:

The female spider looks after the baby spiders or spiderlings for around nine days after hatching – until after the first moult. At that point the spiderlings leave the maternal web.

Life-span:

Daddy-long-legs spiders live for about three years.

Daddy-long-legs spiders eat a wide range of other insects, including other spiders such as the redback and huntsman. It is for this reason, that it became the general belief that daddy-long-legs had a more toxic bite than the redback. However, this is a myth (see below).

Not only is there the common belief that daddy-long-legs bite is amongst the most toxic of spider bites, there is also the belief that the reason humans are not at danger from a daddy-long-legs bite is because their fangs cannot penetrate human skin. Both are myths!

In fact a segment on the US Mythbusters television show demonstrated that the 0.25 mm fangs could indeed penetrate human skin, but that the resulting reaction, a mild stinging sensation, was very short lived.

Symptoms:

Mild stinging sensation. Not considered harmful to humans.

First aid:

  • Apply an ice pack to the bite area
  • (Capture or take a photo of the spider for identification)
  • Seek medical attention if an allergic reaction occurs

Regular cleaning and vacuuming will prevent daddy-long-legs setting up home.

Information on other spider species.

Treatment notes:

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