What Are Cellar Spiders?
Cellar spiders, scientifically known as Pholcidae, belong to the family of arachnids and are commonly referred to as "daddy longlegs spiders" due to their long, delicate legs. They are small to medium-sized spiders, typically ranging from 2 to 10 mm in body length, with leg spans that can exceed several inches. Cellar spiders are found in various regions around the world and have adapted to a variety of environments, but they are often associated with dark, secluded places such as basements, caves, and, as their common name suggests, cellars.
These spiders are characterized by their distinctive, elongated bodies and extremely long, thin legs. Cellar spiders are known for their habit of hanging upside down in irregular, messy webs. They are adept hunters, capturing prey such as flies, mosquitoes, and other small insects by using their silk to ensnare them. Despite their delicate appearance, cellar spiders are skilled predators and can be beneficial in controlling insect populations in and around homes.
One fascinating aspect of cellar spiders is their remarkable ability to vibrate rapidly when threatened, causing their bodies to blur and making it difficult for predators to see them clearly. This behavior, called "vibrational mimicry," helps protect them from potential threats.
These spiders are harmless to humans and are not known to be venomous. In fact, they are more likely to be beneficial as natural pest controllers in your home. While they may appear intimidating due to their long legs, cellar spiders are generally docile and will not pose any danger to people or pets.
What Do Cellar Spiders Look Like?
Cellar spiders, or Pholcidae, have distinctive physical characteristics that set them apart from other spiders. Here is what cellar spiders typically look like:
- Body Size: Cellar spiders are generally small to medium-sized spiders, with their body length ranging from 2 to 10 millimeters.
- Long, Slender Legs: The most noticeable feature of cellar spiders is their exceptionally long and delicate legs. These legs can be several times the length of their body. The legs are often banded or speckled in appearance.
- Body Shape: The body of a cellar spider is elongated and cylindrical, often appearing pear-shaped with a narrow waist. The abdomen is typically more rounded, while the cephalothorax (front part of the body) is narrower.
- Coloration: Cellar spiders can vary in color, but they are commonly pale or light brown, with some species exhibiting darker markings or patterns on their bodies. Their coloration helps them blend into their surroundings.
- Spinnerets: At the rear end of their abdomen, cellar spiders have small, noticeable spinnerets that they use to produce silk for web construction.
- Web Structure: Cellar spiders build irregular, messy, three-dimensional webs that are often found in dark and secluded areas, such as cellars, basements, and corners of rooms. These webs are typically loosely constructed and serve as both hunting grounds and protective retreats.
- Behavior: When at rest, cellar spiders often hang upside down in their webs, waiting for prey to become entangled. They may shake or vibrate their bodies rapidly when threatened, creating a blurry image that helps deter potential predators.
Cellar spiders' long legs and distinctive web structures make them relatively easy to identify once you become familiar with their appearance. Despite their somewhat intimidating leg span, these spiders are harmless to humans and are more of a help than a hindrance as they control insect populations around your home.
Where Are Cellar Spiders Found?
Cellar spiders, also known as daddy longlegs spiders, can be found in various locations, often favoring dark and sheltered environments. Here are some common places where you might encounter cellar spiders:
- Cellars and Basements: As their name suggests, cellar spiders are frequently found in cellars and basements. They thrive in these dark, cool, and often damp areas, where they can build their webs to capture insects.
- Caves and Crawl Spaces: Cellar spiders are well adapted to living in natural underground environments like caves and crawl spaces. They construct webs in the corners and on the ceilings of these spaces.
- Barns and Outbuildings: In rural settings, cellar spiders can be found in barns, sheds, and other outbuildings. They help control insect populations in these areas, making them valuable for pest management.
- Residential Homes: Cellar spiders can also be found indoors, particularly in homes and buildings. They may take up residence in basements, garages, or any other secluded areas with suitable conditions.
- Attics: In some cases, cellar spiders can be found in attics, especially if they have access to the dark and undisturbed spaces within the attic.
- Outdoor Vegetation: While less common, cellar spiders may also be found outdoors in gardens, bushes, and other vegetation. They may construct webs among leaves and branches to capture flying insects.
- Dark Corners and Crevices: These spiders are known for their preference for dark, undisturbed corners and crevices. You might come across them in hidden spaces throughout your property.
Cellar spiders are not typically aggressive and are not known to pose a threat to humans. In fact, they can be beneficial as they help control insect populations by capturing and feeding on various small insects. If you encounter cellar spiders in your home and prefer not to have them indoors, gently relocating them outside can be an effective and humane way to manage their presence.
What Is The Life Cycle Of Cellar Spiders?
The life cycle of cellar spiders, like many spiders, consists of several stages, including egg laying, hatching, maturation, and reproduction. Here is the life cycle of cellar spiders:
- Egg Laying: Adult female cellar spiders lay eggs. They typically construct a silken egg sac, which can contain anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred eggs, depending on the species. The egg sac is usually spherical in shape and attached to a surface, often within the spider's web or in a concealed location.
- Incubation: The female spider guards the egg sac, keeping it safe from potential threats. During this incubation period, which can last a few weeks, the female may also make minor repairs to the egg sac and maintain the web.
- Hatching: When the time is right, the spiderlings (baby spiders) hatch from the eggs. Spiderlings emerge from the egg sac and are initially tiny and pale in color. They typically remain close to the egg sac and start to disperse once they are a bit more developed.
- Early Development: The spiderlings undergo several molts as they grow. They gradually increase in size and go through various instar stages. During this time, they feed on small insects and other prey caught in their mother's web, or they may resort to cannibalism if food is scarce.
- Maturation: As the spiderlings continue to grow and mature, they eventually reach the adult stage. The time it takes to reach maturity can vary based on factors like temperature, food availability, and other environmental conditions.
- Reproduction: Once they become adults, cellar spiders are capable of reproducing. Mating typically occurs when a male cellar spider finds a receptive female. After mating, the female may produce one or more egg sacs, starting the cycle anew.
- Lifespan: The lifespan of an adult cellar spider can vary depending on the species and environmental conditions. Some may live for several years, while others might have shorter lifespans. In general, cellar spiders can live for an extended period if they have access to a stable source of prey.
Cellar spiders are relatively small and are not known for their long lifespan compared to larger spider species. They are also typically solitary creatures, and adult males often do not survive long after mating. The process of egg laying and hatching, with a focus on protecting the egg sac, is a critical part of their life cycle.
What Do Cellar Spiders Eat?
Cellar spiders are opportunistic predators and primarily feed on a variety of small insects and other arthropods. They are beneficial in controlling insect populations around the areas where they are commonly found. Here are some common prey items that cellar spiders might eat:
Other Spiders: Cellar spiders are known to be cannibalistic, and they may feed on other, smaller spider species if given the opportunity.
Aphids and Other Sap-Feeding Insects: In some cases, they may prey on aphids and other sap-feeding insects that are present in the same location. While this is less common, it can occur if the spider's web is situated near plants hosting such insects.
Cellar spiders use their silk to construct messy, three-dimensional webs, and they typically hang upside down in their webs, waiting for prey to become entangled. Once an insect is caught, the spider approaches it, subdues it with silk, and then proceeds to feed on it. These spiders are opportunistic and will eat whatever prey is available in their vicinity. Their presence can be particularly beneficial for controlling unwanted insect populations in and around your home.
Are Cellar Spiders Dangerous?
Cellar spiders are generally not considered dangerous to humans. They are non-venomous and not aggressive, and their primary purpose is to feed on small insects, helping to control pest populations. However, there are a few ways in which they might be considered a minor nuisance or could potentially pose very minimal risks:
- Web Intrusion: The messy three-dimensional webs constructed by cellar spiders can become a nuisance if they accumulate in areas where people walk or work. Walking into these webs can be an unpleasant experience.
- False Identification: Occasionally, cellar spiders are mistaken for venomous spiders like the brown recluse or black widow due to their long legs and delicate appearance. This can lead to unnecessary fear and concern.
- Cannibalism: As mentioned previously, cellar spiders are known to be cannibalistic, and adult females may eat their own offspring or other cellar spiders. While this is a natural behavior, it can limit their population size in certain areas.
- Allergies: Like all spiders, cellar spiders can produce allergenic proteins in their silk. While this is rare and most people are not affected, some individuals may experience mild skin irritation if they come into contact with these allergens.
- Invasive Behavior: In some regions, certain non-native cellar spider species have been introduced, and their presence can disrupt local ecosystems or outcompete native species. This is more of a concern in terms of ecological balance rather than direct danger to humans.
Cellar spiders are not venomous, and their fangs are not strong enough to penetrate human skin. They are not aggressive, and their primary role is as beneficial predators, helping to manage insect populations. In most cases, they are more of a help than a harm and can be left undisturbed to perform their natural pest control duties. If their presence becomes a significant concern, they can be gently relocated to areas where they are less likely to interfere with human activities.
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