Monday, 27 June 2016

A spider in the house!

Usually my blog entries are about my wildlife adventures outdoors, but today I needn't look any further than my kitchen to find wildlife!

Today I found a spider hanging just above the doorway in my kitchen. I immediately thought it was interesting, because it had very long legs and a small, elongated body, different from the house spiders that we usually get. I caught the spider in a tub, and further examination and research confirmed my suspicions: this was a cellar spider.
The name, cellar spider, isn't always used, so in this case it makes more sense to refer to the species by its scientific name, Pholcus phalangioides. I had seen this spider several times before in our house, but it was only this time and one other time that I knew that it was a Pholcus (until then I had never heard of them). This time, I did some further research into the species.

Pholcus was not originally native to the UK. Instead, it lived only in warmer regions, but now that most homes in Britain are well-heated, they have been able to spread to the UK. They cannot survive outdoors, so are instead restricted to our houses.
This species feeds on mosquitos, woodlice, and other small invertebrates that it can catch in our homes. However, it will often eat other spiders, of both its own species and of other species, if it can catch them.

This species is a sort of dull brown-yellow colour, and its legs are quite translucent - so much so that apparently you can see blood cells moving around inside them under a microscope. I did look at my specimen under a microscope, but alas, I didn't see any blood cells. My microscope was clearly not powerful enough.

 This species is sometimes called the daddy longlegs - a name also used for harvestmen (a close relative of spiders), as well as craneflies. This can be quite confusing, as all 3 have very long legs, and are superficially similar (except that craneflies have wings). To avoid confusion, I prefer to not use the daddy longlegs name for any of them.

There's an urban legend that Pholcus has some of the most potent venom of any spider in the world, but its fangs are not strong enough to pierce human skin, so we are safe. However, neither of these are true. In actual fact, their venom is not very potent at all, though their fangs can pierce human skin. However, don't be afraid! They are not dangerous, though you must be careful not to allow the bite to become infected, and it causes only a very mild burning sensation which dulls in a few seconds.

All in all, what a fascinating little creature!

Until next time, keep on the wild side!

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