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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Two months in the life of a mummy long-legs

Mother-cups, the daddy long-legs (Pholcus phalangioides), lives in the kitchen cupboard, above the coffee and cups. She has been holding her egg sac for over a month. Just hanging around, occasionally moving position, with her egg sac held firmly in her jaws. Junk from her feeding accumulated in the corner of the web. (Click on images for full size.)


The egg sac grew in size, and legs started to be visible in a few of the eggs.


And then the eggs were separating, with the eggs more visible. They were starting to hatch.


The next day, the hatching began. One tiny spiderling broke free and stretched out its long legs, leaving the collapsed white egg shell behind. 



It was nearly two hours before the next egg hatched, a pair of legs appearing on the other side of the egg sac to the first little spiderling. 



The next morning, and they were all bursting forth.


After 24 hours of holding the bundle of legs and bodies, Mother-cups suddenly started vigorously  kicking the spiderlings out of the bundle.


Then she decided to leave them to it and go for a wander.


She returned, after an hour of peace, and kicked out the remaining few spiderlings.


She then dropped the empty egg sac onto the coffee tin below. One little spiderling hadn't hatched.


All done! Mother-cups returned to her young and stood guard.


That was a week ago. They all hung around together. Then, this morning, after two months in her corner, Mother-cups and all her young were suddenly gone. I found her in the other side of the cupboard. The young have all dispersed.

I have at least another dozen females in the living area, many with egg sacs. After few years, and hundreds of young being born in here, I know that we will not be overrun with them. Something is regulating their numbers. Probably sibling-dinners.

This is going on in houses all over the world. All you need to do is skip the housework, leave the webs and watch the amazing behaviour of these incredibly docile, harmless creatures.