Friday, July 14, 2017

Harvestmen, Daddy-longlegs or that weird, pulsing blob on the front porch

I received a wonderful photo this past week and was thrilled when I was told that I could use it on my blog- thanks Jackie!  The photo is the inspiration of today's post.

clumped harvestmen
Clumped harvestmen.  Photo by Jackie Johnson.
Harvestmen, also sometimes called Daddy-longlegs, are arachnids but are NOT spiders.  Harvestmen are actually in their own order, Opiliones, whereas spiders are in the order Araneae.  Harvestmen have one basic body section, two eyes, and eight legs.  They live in moist habitats and usually are found under rocks or logs.

The two questions I get in regards to harvestmen typically are:
1.  Why do they clump together?
2. Is it really true that they are the most venomous spider, but their fangs cannot penetrate our skin?

Sit down everyone, because your wish is coming true....the TRUTH ABOUT HARVESTMEN.....

harvestmen
Harvestmen on branch.
Let's begin with #1- Harvestmen clump together for multiple reasons.  First off, a clump of harvestmen looks a lot larger and scarier than a single harvestmen, so can help to cause predators to think twice about wanting to have them as a meal.  Secondly, harvestmen release a smell that is somewhat stinky (I was going to say smelly, but aren't all smells smelly?).  Again, with the smell, there is a benefit to larger numbers....the smell is more pronounced to help repel predators.  So, it basically comes down to what we teach our kids....there is safety in numbers.

Moving on to #2- We can begin with the most obvious point that was covered already....harvestmen are NOT spiders.  Next, I need to say that harvestmen do not have venom glands or fangs.  They typically feed on decomposing plant and animal matter.

So, there you have it.  You're burning questions about harvestmen are now answered.  I think this would be a great topic to discuss this weekend around the dinner table.  Enjoy!