The Daddy-long-legs Spider (Pholcus phalangioides), also known as the Cellar Spider or Skull Spider, is a species of arachnid found in many parts of the world, but originally came from the tropics. They are commonly found living in caves, garages, ceilings of household rooms, and cellars. In Australia, it is considered a beneficial species as it kills and eats the venomous redback Spider. There is some confusion with the common name “daddy longlegs”. This name is also applied to two other unrelated arthropods: the Harvestman and the Crane Fly. The common name Skull Spider comes from the spider”˜s cephalothorax, which looks like a human skull.
The female has a body length of about 0.35 inches. The male is slightly smaller. The legs are about 6 – 8 times the length of the body and can reach up to 2.75 inches in the female. This spider has a habit of shaking its web violently when disturbed. This is most likely to blur the vision of the predator. They will readily catch and eat other small spiders, mosquitoes, and other insects. When food is scarce, they will prey on their own kind.
These spiders do not seem to be aware of seasonal changes and will breed year round. The female holds 20 to 30 eggs in her pedipalps (a pair of appendages near the mouth used for reproductive functions. Spiderlings are transparent and have short legs. They change their skin about 5 or 6 times as they mature.
There is an urban legend that states that this spider is the most venomous spider in the world, but because that their fangs are unable to penetrate human skin, they are harmless to humans. However, recent studies have shown that the venom of this species has a relatively weak effect on insects. There has been no further research conducted to determine its effect on mammalian biology. In an episode of Myth Busters it was shown that the spider’s fangs could penetrate human skin (less then 3000ths of an inch) but that only a very mild burning feeling was felt for just a few seconds.