Identifying Spiders of New Zealand: Pholcus philangioides

Probably the easiest of spider Genera to identify and the most common in households throughout the world, Pholcus or daddy long legs spider with its long legs and small cephalothorax (combined head and body), is recognisable even to those least interested in spiders. Without the means to observe the spider under magnification its size makes it almost impossible to identify truly to species level so working on internet sites and referring only to New Zealand spiders the only species name to be found is Pholcus philangioides (Fuesslin 1775), until further identification is possible that is the species which I am registering as recorded in my database.

Native only to NZ
longinqua (L Koch 1867)
no (Aus)
auricoma (Urquart, 1886)
phangioides (Fuesslin, 1775)
no (Glo)

In the space remaining having little to say regarding the identification of Pholcus let us consider some things about the spider, it is said Pholcus has the most venom and is the most poisonous spider, well for its size it carries a lot of venom, it is not the most poisonous though and its fangs are unable to penetrate human skin so it is not harmful at all. The spider has the ability to confuse and disorientate its prey or predators by shaking the web it is in, it flexes certain legs at a time in order to wobble rapidly so that it is hard to see, this causes predators to retreat unless it gets caught in the fast moving web in which case it becomes prey. Pholcus has the ability to catch and feed upon spiders and insects far bigger than itself due mainly to its long legs and ability to web its prey from a safe distance.

There is no doubt that many insects and bugs that are detrimental to health are removed by spiders, many of the bugs which are carrying disease are removed by them and generally most are absolutely harmless to humans, only a small number of spiders worldwide can harm humans and even then such interaction is rare in global terms, certainly from what I know so far no spider is dangerous in New Zealand. Many of the phobias regarding spiders are hereditary, many people who jump away from spiders and are afraid of them do this because of the reactions of their parents or people they knew when they were young.

One of the greatest myths involving spiders is that we eat a certain amount during our life times due to them lowering themselves or walking into our mouths, spiders are so well evolved that we do not know what all of the organs on their legs are for, but we do know that the hairs on their legs especially those which we call tricabothren (spelling to be confirmed, it does not google), are very sensitive and the spider can smell with its legs, so why would it head toward the mouth of a potential prey animal such as humans. Breath on any animal and it is threatened as a potential food source spiders avoid contact with predators just as any animal would.

One more thing about spiders, they think and they remember,  

I once temporarily had Tegenaria domestica (Clerck, 1757) the common house spider, in a small vivarium at home, it had an egg sac which hatched, the only food that I could give to the spider was a locust, larger than the spider, (we used to have Tarantulas). Imediately the spider ran away because of the danger. quick aside, NO predatory animal ever attacks prey if there is a chance that it will get injured as injury leads to an inability to hunt and therefore death, predators only attack large dangerous animals as a last resort if they are unable to hunt correctly or desperate. so the locust was by the spiderlings and the mother had run away, once the locust was very close to the young the spider ran back, attacked and killed it, she then left it for the young to eat. She appeared to reconsider her instinct in favour of the spiderlings.

Finally here are a couple of questions to help me out with these hubs, please be honest.

Do spiders freak you out

  • yes
  • no
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Do you like spiders

  • yes
  • no
  • don't really care
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Has this and any of my other spider identification hubs helped in any of these ways

  • helped to learn about spiders
  • just of interest/passing through
  • helped to appreciate spiders
  • not helped at all
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