Saturday, July 22, 2017

Harvestman


It's a sign of the high summer when harvestmen appear in our garden. Initially I though this was Leiobunum rotundum, until Richard Burkmar (see comment below) pointed out that it's an invasive, non-native species called Opilio canestrinii which was first documented in Britain in 1999.This species has remarkably long black legs, like L.rotundum, but there is an orange ring around the trochanter ('knee') that I hadn't notice. This male, sunbathing on a leaf in the late afternoon sunshine, is in pristine condition, probably having just reached maturity. Females have a darker saddle-like marking on their dorsal side.



































The longest legs are the second pair and key senses of taste, smell and touch are located on these. If you watch them walking through the undergrowth you can see them using these to explore their surroundings.

Harvestmen often lose a leg of two, shedding them if they are grabbed by a bird or caught in a spider's web, and this isn't too much of a problem unless it's the second sensory pair - then they are in more serious difficulties.

For more harvestmen (including pictures of a female Leiobunum rotundum) on this blog, click here.





































Opilio canestrinii has spread northwards quite widely since it was first found in Essex eighteen years ago. The Spider and Harvestman Recording Scheme web site (click here) shows that it has reached as far north as Inverness. 

My guess is that it arrived in our garden via a plant from a garden centre. The wholesale and retail garden plant trade provides perfect distribution network for newly arrived arthropod species like this.


6 comments:

  1. They are wonderful. I like the way they have a little turret to put their eyes in.

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    1. Like something from War of the Worlds, aren't they?

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  2. I love your blogs - I've learned so much. But the Harvestman here is Oplio canestrinii. The big give-away are the orange trochanters constrasting with the very dark legs. The trochanters of Leiobunum rotundum are dark with lighter patches.

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    1. Thank you so much, Richard. The only harvestman key I have is Sankey and Savory's in a 1979 edition, which pre-dates the arrival of this species by 20 years. I've revised the post in the light of your ID. Thanks again, Phil

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  3. That is interesting to know. I thought that all my Harvestmen had been decimated by the decorator but I spied a baby one the other day so I am hopeful.

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    1. I rather like them .... and my little grand daughter is fascinated by them!

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