Wednesday, January 31, 2007


The "daddy Long leg spider"
Pholcus phalangioides

I should really call her "Moma long legs" in this case, because this one is definitely a female and very pregnant. As of 1/29/2007 she's ready to pop just in time for spring. Yet there were juveniles down there too. Incredibly, you can see her eggs inside her semi-transparent body. You can also see some of her silk glands which look like legs. I decided to do a look at spiders living in homes. I started in my basement where I let them roam free completely but naturally. My basement is shut with two doors so they rarely come up that way. I don't introduce any spiders to my basement. I just look at what shows up on naturally. Once--a huge and less common louse spider was down there. I wish I had a chance at a second shot but I did get her ok on 35mm film if I can find the picture.

I have been looking at what they are eating, how big they get, population density--and most of all--when are they active and alive. These pictures were taken with a special adapter for my new digital SLR. This shot was taken without her even being frightened. Knowing what spiders can go through from years of experience, I make a choice sometimes weather it is safe to catch them for pictures or I must leave them where they are. Because daddy long legs are fragile and these three were pregnant--I would not ever capture them for a better shot. That's another reason why I get or build more complex macro gear. If it's two expensive I try to build it. I developed a simple flash reflector that gives large amount light coverage above f25 as you can see in these shots.

Yes, she is your first defense. First off--lets get one thing straight. THE DADDY LONG LEGS IS NOT THE MOST POISONS SPIDER IN THE WORLD!

That is a fact. For you fans of the Discovery Channel show the Myth busters--you should know this as they busted the myth. For some unknown, weird and crazy reason this apparently un-traceable myth has even convinced some experts just because everybody says it and nearly everybody believes it. Few spider myths are that powerful. In fact, you could be bitten many times over and you would not even get half as bad as a bee sting in pain or body damage. I never advise playing with spiders or handling them since there is nearly always slight chance of allergies and you might harm the spider. But daddy long legs, if anything, are non-toxic spiders in your home. They are so harmless you need not fear them in your home at all. But they are very fragile and you can harm by using objects to remove them from your bathtub. Tweezers-- plastic or not, will snap her legs or body in two. NEVER use tweezers to pickup a spider! That is kind of like using a the jaws of life to pick up a person--the power would cut you in half or something. That's what tweezers often do to live spiders and insects when people don't know. Instead, as with all spiders, carefully use a large jar and a sheet of paper to push and scoop them slowly into the jar. That will prevent harming them and give you plenty of clearance if you are trying to get another possibly more dangerous kind of spider. Waring gloves can seriously reduce the chances of being bit by any spider since most species that are dangerous cannot penetrate simple gardening gloves. Then let them loose under your house or even in your dark un-used basement--they will almost for sure stay there.

In my quest down in that damp basement I found five daddy long legs in a small space. I was surprised to see full-adults living in my basement which is nearly as cold as it is outside. They are living and even ready to lay eggs now. All three adults were pregnant. They will soon lay a pack of eggs and wrap it in silk. She will then guard them, like any devoted mother. She is a member of the Pholcidae. So she will carry her eggs in a nicely wrapped silk sack that she will hook onto her mouth parts. And she will not only carry these eggs but defend them with her life. I need to go back down there soon to catch that event.

She will lay about 30 eggs. Because she takes care of them--she need not lay 100s like other spiders. She will live about a year, and in that time grow larger (by scale) then even dinosaurs if I recall correctly. I was unable to find any males, chances are they moved on and died. They do make webs but often (like many male spiders) die because they push themselves to starvation looking for a mate (kinda like me :). Not an act of cannibalism.

In fact, daddy long legs are a member of cave dwelling spiders that go back a long time and have learned to tolerate each other in close quarters because of there cave-dwelling history. They fight rarely. I'm not saying it never happens--but often webs are close together and in such close quarters if they ate there own young it would be very difficult for those 30 eggs to make it so they tend to get along. I've seen places where every square foot and more had another spider. There eyesight is not very good at all--but they can tell what is making there web move nearly instantly. Her relatives are the Cellar spider, and a few others that look very similar. You can usually tell by the shape of her body. The Cellar spider has a more globe shaped abdomen and can be larger.

This is a kind of insect midden or "bone yard". Insects and spiders don't have bones but they do have exoskeleton parts that can last indefinitely. Like real bones, you can learn from them. They are made of different stuff but it is often easy to tell the type of insect by the parts left behind. I let these trash-heaps form in my damp cold and old basement I don't use for much. So I can get some idea of what they are eating. A close look at high-res can reveal quickly what these parts are from. These husks are mostly earwigs and ant parts. But I found, many other kinds of insects and flying insect remains such as beetles and flies. Some people use shelves of dangerous and expensive chemicals around near this area to deal with bugs. And yet they have constant problems. I've got ant nests that I know exist in my back yard but since I use no poison there either--they have not made it inside my house. This is because dozens of ant-lions that live under my porch and even more spiders under my house and in my basement where they would otherwise get inside. If you got ants, flies, beetles or earwigs and other unwanted insects--let nature take care of it as much as possible. It works for me!

I moved her a bit just by tapping the web and took this ventral view. You can see most obvious on her shiny abdomen, the epigyne. This is her female reproductive opening. Males, like most spiders--make a small special web (called a sperm web) where they deposit sperm and collect it in there palps. Female spiders have palps but none of the complex apparatus that males do for mating. Male daddy long legs are nearly as large as the females, another good thing to have if you are to live in close quarters with your same species without fights or worse. The larger the male the more danger is to both spiders and therefor less chances of a misunderstanding. I have not found a male down here yet. Male spiders usually get the short end of the stick as spiders. Most of them die after mating and don't as long as the females. Some cannot even eat--born simply to procreate. Below is a tighter view-- her cephalothorax (prosoma) is the body part where all her legs are connected to. On the very top of her body in this picture is her mouth--and just above that are two small things that look like bumps just above it. These are the palps. They look like tiny legs and are used in females to move large pray. They are not considered legs. All spiders have 8 legs and only 8.

She breaths from those two white things on her abdomen. They are just before the cephalothorax (she has two body segments, unlike insects which have 3). Those patches lead to her two relatively primitive lungs. At best, she can see light shapes. Vision just is not needed for a cave spider. Yet all spiders have more advanced eyes then insects. Instead of the "pixcilated" view through compound eyes as in insects, spiders and there larger brains use actual simple eyes with the same in a very basic sense the same parts as our own on the inside. Spiders that see good see better then insects because of this.


Most people think in terms of driving. I often walk and even in winter sometimes find things I think are worth photographing. This is a VERY small mushroom. It's about 10mm high.

Rose hips, are full of vitamins that if I recall, can prevent scurvy. A terrible disease that happens when you just eat meet and or bread. Vitamin deficiencies used to kill settlers so any plants with a supply were quickly grown.
This is as close as I could get with the gear I had on me while I was shooting this area to this tiny mushroom. I only found two and only one of them was like this. The top of this mushroom is very small but I got it in focus.

Two mornings in a row it froze very hard and fog went with it. So cold that I feared for my camera but with gloves on I took a number of ice-world shots.

It is hard to believe that just a week after or so this hard-frost happened--this moss and small plants were growing on a cliff side only a block or two away from where I shot the frost. This picture was shot in RAW. It's JPEG counterpart was so dark that there would be no saving it at all without RAW and the new Photoshop camera-RAW that is now free on line. The picture above was recovered with RAW.

And to finish this post off--here is a rose hip with some kind of spines on it. This shot was taken in full daylight with a flash to make it's features stand out. Learning manual controls on your camera, either DSLR or compact you can let you do shots like this. Film or digital. Shoot
at a very high f-stop. At least f8 if your using a compact camera that only goes that far. If it goes higher go up to about f16. Mainly--up your aperture so high that you can't see anything when you take a shot without the flash in bright sunlight. Unless it's as close up as you need it to be. Then setup a shot at flash-speed (your camera might auto-limit the speed you can use your shutter with because if it is too fast the flash will not show on the picture, this auto-limit for flash sync usually happens at about 60-200). Set your ISO for as low as your camera can go for the best close up quality. And with that high f-stop take the shot with your flash turned on and your macro mode turned on--take a shot. Many compact cameras have a button with a flower icon on it--make sure that is turned on for close shots. You may need to adjust the brightness of your flash, iso and or your f-stop until you get it right.

RAW crystal. These leaves are frozen solid. The new camera-raw download for Photoshop makes it very easy to get the most out of Raw. To get it--do a search on the name of your camera and "___RAW FOR". I believe it works from Photoshop Elements 3.0 to CS2. It's worth it as I can now bring pictures that are nearly totally dark in JPEG and thus un-recoverable can now be recovered and enhanced with RAW. I have been slow to accept using RAW but now realize it's well worth using.


Shocking as it was I once dropped a compact zoom camera, I did not give up as I was shocked to see the lens was mashed in to one side. The idea here at least in compact cameras is to be very careful not to pull the micro-contacts free so hold on right where it stopped. Kind of like holding something together that is really sensitive. Even if it's a DSLR, you may be able to fix the lens yourself. I would not think it possible without having it happen with two totally different cameras. First--don't do anything fast or pull on anything that is easy to pull on and or don't let it hang by a wire or anything--KEEP IT HELD IN THE RANGE OF MOTION IT SHOULD BE. When the lens on one of my cameras got bashed in on one side. Terrified, I figured I was not going to ever get it fixed and thought to buy another camera. (I got my most important camera insured and it's worth it--$100 can cover a new DSLR and sometimes a kit with a lens for 2 years no questions asked repair.) No such insurance existed on my compact.
I pushed the zoom end of the lens gently enough over to towards the right side and like popping back dislocated shoulder it popped back into working fine! That camera has shown no problem since. I would only say this because it happened twice with totally different cameras. Both times were my fault. In my early days one was an add-on lens that pulled it out of socket--the next was another zoom camera that got smashed in more recently. Pulling it out it also popped back into shape. I nearly took it in or bought a new one. That saved me allot of money to try to repair it carefully. I do have semi-serious experience in electronics and electrical engineering-- but it does not require that to move a lens around and get it working again.

Things got froze that morning so hard that I could only stay out for a while. Those tiny things in the center of the picture are plants. I'm not sure if they survived the cold like this.

These are the strange thorns on the Rose hip plant.

One other tip I found out from personal experience is this nightmare of dropping a camera in the field. You drop your camera in the water of course, get it out as quickly as possible and remove all batteries as quickly as you can! And when that is done quickly remove the memory card. Let your memory card second. Dry for a few days in front of a window or fan. My 1gig SD card is still alive and working for me after it fell into a over a foot deep creek getting totally submerged. as soaked. The actual chip is sealed inside a protective plastic blob. The connections are gold plated and thus very resistant to corrosion.

Although I now use CF cards for most everything and have not had one of those more
pro-cards fall into the water--I figure the same thing applies to them. If you drop a card in a creek or something--dry it out for a good week and then put it in a card reader. You should have all your pictures with no problems at all. They are by no means water-proof--but since the chips are sealed and the connections are gold plated accidental exposure should not be an assumption of loosing your entire memory card! I put my SD card back in my MP3 player and still use that one to this day. Sinking over one foot into a creek caused no damage whatsoever!

"CARD ERROR" dead card? Can't format? No card" --camera warnings--read this-
Just the other day I had a 1gig SD card get disconnected too quickly or something. I use it for my MP3 player video camera. I tried using it in my other cameras and got "Card error". Two more cameras came up with similar grim errors. NO way to format the card. No way to use it? Not quite. I have and use sometimes a card-reader. If you use WinXP with a card adapter or reader it might be possible to save such a card. I put the SD card in the slot on my laptop and found that it's pictures were in tact. There was just some error that made the cameras reject it. So this is what worked--

1-Get the properties of that card and see what format it is using (FAT) (FAT32) (RAW)
whatever. *I am not sure if this is necessary but I did it anyway.

2-Copy via using the card as a disk in "My Computer" your pictures or files to save them.

3-FORMAT the card completely in whatever format the card was. In this case (FAT) was the system.

After I did that--I put it in my camera and it has worked since then. I tested it a couple times and found that there is nothing wrong with it. Had I not known, this expensive card would have been gone. Most digital camera's let you format cards--but in this case three different brands of cameras would not let me do it. Only my computer card-reader let me re-format this damaged card. Be sure to remove cards correctly by turning the camera or device your using off before removing them. It is important to note some people don't know. Be careful when camping. Sleeping bags can produce 100s of thousands of volts. You can fry your memory card or even your camera if your not careful. I have failed to fix one card broken a long time ago. It was probably static-zapped. Thankfully Flash memory is getting cheaper and cheaper. The other day I pulled an old PDA out of my stuff from 1998. It's memory still has all it's files in tact even though it has no backup battery and it's main batteries had long-died. Flash memory is rumored to last forever. (more or less).

A leaf--frozen and decayed as if already a fossil. More pics to come--I got a huge database of pictures not yet shown. I thank all who write in. I appreciate your compliments and honest opinions. Don't forget to leave me your e-mail if you ask me a question.


chaindropz said...

I have not been by your site in a while. Those are great Daddy longlegs pictures. Those things kill orb web weavers.

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Meredith said...

Thank you so much for your great site! We caught a prego D.L. earlier (paper and cup) and were looking for photos to confirm that that is indeed what she is. Your site helped my in my constant quest to get the kids to leave the spiders! The mosquitoes are the real pests!