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Scorpions Spiders Mites and Ticks: Arachnida

Long-bodied Cellar Spider (pholcus Phalangioides): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The grayish brown or tan body of the cellar spider is slender and measures 0.23 to 0.3 inches (6 to 8 millimeters) in length. These spiders have eight long, clear legs. The body regions are not divided into segments and are attached to each other by a thin waist. Males are slightly shorter than females. The abdomen is long and rectangular.

Geographic range: Long-bodied cellar spiders are found throughout world, especially in the United States and Europe.

Habitat: Long-bodied cellar spiders are usually found in homes and nearby buildings. They prefer dark, damp areas, such as crawl spaces, basements, closets, sink cabinets, ceilings, cellars, warehouses, garages, attics, and sheds. They also spin webs near open doors and windows that allow flying insects to enter. Spiders hang upside down in messy, irregular webs shaped something like umbrellas.

Long-bodied cellar spiders are usually found in homes and other buildings. (Arthur V. Evans. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: This species eats almost any kind of insect or spider that becomes trapped in its web.

Behavior and reproduction: Prey trapped in the web either is eaten immediately or is swiftly wrapped in silk, like a mummy. The prey is bitten, injected with digestive chemicals, and then sucked dry over the next day or so. The cellar spider also invades other webs, kills the resident spider, and claims the web as its own. When these spiders are threatened, they violently shake their webs.

Courtship may take several hours, ending when the male transfers his sperm from his leglike mouth structures to the female's reproductive organs. Females produce up to three clear egg sacs, each with thirteen to sixty eggs. The sac is carried in the female's mouth. The female guards the eggs for several weeks, until they hatch. The young resemble the adults and soon strike out on their own to build their own webs nearby. They molt five times before reaching maturity and live for about two years.

Long-bodied cellar spiders and people: Urban legend has it that the venom of this spider is one of the most deadly of all, but the small and weak mouthparts prevent this spider from injecting a lethal dose to human victims. Their fangs are too small to puncture human skin, and their venom is not very strong and not dangerous to people. Cellar spiders are beneficial, in that they capture and eat household insects and other spiders.

Conservation status: This species is not endangered or threatened. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceInsects and SpidersScorpions Spiders Mites and Ticks: Arachnida - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Arachnids And People, Hair Follicle (fah-lih-kuhl) Mite (demodex Folliculorum): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, CONSERVATION STATUS