Monday, 23 November 2015

Harvestmen - information for next year's harvest time

Todat's frost will  probably have finished off the last of the harvestmen.  They overwinter as eggs.  But I've written this posting anyway so you can think about them all winter and look for them next summer

They look like spindly spiders with very long, slender legs which keep their bodies suspended above ground, like something from 'Star Wars'.   Most people find they are not so scary as spiders, probably because they don't come into our houses.

They have eight legs like their relatives the spiders.  The second pair of legs is always the longest and they use them to feel the ground ahead, just as some insects use their antennae.  

Spiders have a separate body and head, but harvestmen have them combined into just one blob.  And they can't make webs or any silk at all.

   On top of the head is a little stalk or turret called an ocularium, with two eyes.  This is particularly spectacular in a species called  Megabunus diadema.

.    There are about 25 different species of harvestman in the UK.  They are easiest to find in late summer and autumn when they are mature.  But they die in winter so it may be too late now.  You may have to wait a bit.

This one called Phalangium opilio is the commonest harvestman in the world.  The males have forward pointing 'horns' on the front, which helps with identification

Photo: naturenet

Harvestmen mostly like damp habitats and feed on almost anything: tiny invertebrates like springtails (dead or alive), mites, small caterpillars, tiny slugs and snails, decaying plant and animal matter, even bird poo.

So quite good at clearing up then.

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