Male Pholcus phalangioides Click to enlarge image
Male Pholcus phalangioides. Image: Thomas Mesaglio
CC BY-NC 4.0

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    phalangioides
    Genus
    Pholcus
    Family
    Pholcidae
    Infraorder
    Araneomorphae
    Order
    Araneae
    Class
    Arachnida
    Subphylum
    Chelicerata
    Phylum
    Arthropoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    9 mm
  • Habitats
    peridomestic
  • Life history mode
    sedentary
  • Feeding Habits
    arthropod-feeder, carnivorous, insectivorous, predator

Introduction

The cosmopolitan Daddy-long-legs Spider belongs to a group known as the tangle-web spiders.


What do Daddy-long-legs Spiders look like?

Identification

Daddy-long-legs spiders are easily recognised by their extremely long, skinny legs and small body. Pholcus phalangioides has a brown patch on its pale carapace and a cream to pale brown, lightly patterned abdomen. Some related species have different colour patterns, for instance, the Marbled Cellar Spider (Holocnemus pluchei) has a strongly patterned abdomen with a dark stripe on the underside.


Pholcus phalangioides
A mating pair of Marbled Cellar Spiders, Holocnemus pluchei. Image: R.Mascord
© Australian Museum

Where do Daddy-long-legs Spiders live?

Habitat

Daddy-long-legs Spiders are found in most urban areas, in particular houses. They make a thin, tangled web in sheltered positions were they are unlikely to be disturbed, such as under furniture, behind doors, in the corner of the ceilings, in sheds, in garages and under decks.

Its successful use of these human-made structures has made it one of the most common spiders in Australia. If the Daddy-long-legs Spider is disturbed in the web it responds by setting up a very fast, vibratory motion, becoming a blur to anyone watching.

Distribution

The Daddy-long-legs Spider, Pholcus phalangioides, is found throughout Australia. It is a cosmopolitan species that originates from Europe and was introduced accidentally into Australia. Several other introduced species and about 60 described native pholcids also occur here, the latter usually in natural environments.



What do Daddy-long-legs Spiders eat?

Feeding and diet

The Daddy-long-legs Spider feeds on insects and other spiders.


Are Daddy-long-legs Spiders dangerous?

Danger to humans

There is a persistent belief that the Daddy-long-legs Spider has the most toxic venom of all spiders. However, there is no scientific evidence to back this up. The myth probably grew from observations that the Daddy-long-legs Spider will kill and eat a Redback Spider. However, the venom is not actually that potent, even for insects.

It had been thought that the fangs of this spider were incapable of piercing human skin. Recently, however, it was shown that the tiny fangs (about 0.25 mm) were actually capable of piercing human skin in a test done on the US television show, Mythbusters, but the stinging sensation produced was very short-lived. Most reputable sources, including the University of California, Riverside, still say that this species would never be considered as harmful to humans.

However, in the unlikely event of a bite from this species, a positive identification of the spider by an expert should be made and medical attention sought if any reaction persists for more than a short time.


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