A Couple Announcements and A Terrific Non-Spider

Hi everyone, I know it’s short notice, but I wanted to let you know about a couple upcoming webinars I’m giving, in case you’re interested in joining. The first is really short notice – it’s tomorrow (May 27) at 10:30 AM Central Time.

For that first presentation, I’ll be talking about building ecological resilience in prairies. The primary audience includes people associated with the Prairie Corridor Project – a great effort to create a trail and series of natural areas outside Lincoln, Nebraska. However, they said I could invite others to join. Who better to invite than all my friends who read this blog? If you’re interested in joining, here is the information you’ll need (Not sure if you’ll need the meeting ID and password.) Meeting ID: 935 3210 5163 Password: 076725 https://unl.zoom.us/j/93532105163?pwd=MzZ6WHpEMWJLZ3JFSDNVbGF4cGxXdz09

The second presentation is next week on June 3 and is a short photography workshop. It’s intended to help people better understand how their camera makes images and how to use that knowledge to advantage. It should apply to people using any kind of camera – even if it’s just the one on your phone. You can read more about the presentation and learn how to join at this link. The photography talk is part of a series presented by The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. You can see the other options here.

Since many of us are living on Zoom, Skype, or other platforms these days, I’ve wondered if there would be interest in me providing live presentations (potentially recorded for others to watch later) aimed at the readers of this blog. I’m worried that people are so overwhelmed by these kinds of remote meetings and webinars that the thought of adding one more to their lives seems crazy. I guess I’ll just ask. Is this something you’d be interested in? If so, leave me a note in the comments section, along with a topic you’d be interested in. I’ll see what the response looks like and then make plans accordingly.

Sorry for filling up space with all that. I was actually intending to write a short note about a neat little invertebrate you might be seeing near you right now. (Maybe RIGHT BEHIND YOU! – or not)

The daddy long-legs, aka harvestman, is not a spider, even though it has 8 legs. It’s related, but different. One big difference is that it has only two eyes, which are perched up on top of its body like a cockpit on a science fiction mechanical vehicle. This common resident in many people’s gardens, neighborhoods, and even houses/apartments, is a fascinating – and harmless – creature that is often misunderstood.

Harvestmen are automatically disliked by some people because they look so much like spiders. Telling someone that a harvestman is not technically a spider doesn’t seem to be very effective when that person is staring in fear and disgust at a (relatively) big creature with eight very long legs. Whether or not the harvestman is dangerous (it’s not) doesn’t really matter at that point either.

However, that part about being dangerous is important. Because it is known colloquially as a daddy long-legs, it is often confused with other creatures that go by the same name. One of those is a cellar spider in Australia with the reputation as having the most potent venom in the world, or something crazy like that. In fact, the spider is not dangerous to people, but that reality doesn’t stop the rumor mill. You can read more about the amazing daddy long-legs spider here.

Since harvestmen (there are many species) are often confused with the daddy long-legs spider, and people think the daddy long-legs spider is deadly, the innocent harvestman strikes fear in the hearts of some people. That’s a shame because they’re a really cool little animal. They’re easy to pick up and observe in-hand, and common in many places around the world. The biggest issue with them is that they have a tendency to drop a leg or two if they feel threatened, and that can skeeve some people out.

The harvestman feeds on small invertebrates and rotting plant and animal matter. It only rarely eats small children. (That’s a joke.) As they move around the world, their second pair of legs – from the front – function much like antennae. If you get a chance to watch a harvestman walking around, you’ll to see what I mean. They extend those legs, which are full of little sensory organs, and feel around in front of them, much like many other invertebrates use their antennae.

Anyway, if you see a harvestman, take a closer look. If you don’t like spiders, maybe the harvestman can be a kind of ambassador into the world of arachnids – it is an arachnid, just not a spider. If you DO like spiders, but had been told that harvestman (daddy long-legs) were dangerous, now you know they’re not. If you already like spiders AND knew that harvestmen were harmless, well good for you. You can just enjoy these photos taken from my backyard last week.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

23 thoughts on “A Couple Announcements and A Terrific Non-Spider

  1. I’ve read most of what you’ve written on this subject, but I’d like to see a virtual workshop on small prairies, especially those in more urban settings. Care, maintenance, defining and communicating its purpose, etc. What to expect as the “ideal” in a less than ideal situation, surrounded by exotics.

  2. I adore harvestmen! When I was younger I used to “tickle” their feet to watch them pull each leg up as they got tickled. If I found one when I was mowing the grass, I’d give it a ride until I got it to a place safe from the mower blade.

  3. I would like to see webinars on topics you discuss in your blog. Webinars are providing a great source of information and training for people during this time when we are not able to go to in-person seminars. I would also like to see a workshop on small prairies. I volunteer on several remnant prairies in more urban/suburban settings and could use more information about expanding diversity, managing invasives, etc. More information about connecting these small dispersed prairies would be helpful as well.

  4. I would love to have webinars on about any of the topics that you cover in the blog. You always bring a “learning perspective” to the blog so rather than list the many topics I would love to attend, I’ll just say that you should pick something that interests you. If it interests you, I am sure that it will interest me.

  5. Just seconding the request for a recording of your nature photography workshop! Ever since I discovered that my former ‘work’ mobile (an ageing Samsung S6) takes ridiculously good closeups of flowers, I have wanted to get even better shots – and recently spent the best part of an hour crouched next to a solanum flower the size of my thumbnail, trying desperately to get a tiny native bee properly lit and into focus. As I live in Western Australia, 13 hours ahead of you, attending in person will depend on staying up well past my bedtime :-).

  6. Thanks Chris! I will be joining in the morning, technology permitting! Fellow Prairie enthusiast in Dallas, Texas. Becky Rader

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. I would ditto several of the responses, restoration, invasive management and removal techniques, restoring diversity without damaging remnants, seed harvesting techniques and guesstimates on times for specific species, and connecting remnants. Rsstoring pasturelands back to Prairie on small farms. Thank you for all that you already do!

  8. Please do webinars, and please please record them for later viewing! I am missing many good educational because I’m outside working!

  9. Daddy long legs are essential for finding lost cattle, you know. Hold one in the palm of your hand, and the first leg it lifts will point in the direction of the cows.
    I’ve never lost any cows, but my Uncle Herbert said it was so. :-)

  10. I’d be very interested in webinars, from you, about topics that you share with us in your blog. I live in an urban area in Minnesota and feel like I’m visiting a beautiful wild area through your posts. I love your photography and I’ve learned a lot about prairie flora and fauna.

  11. Yes recorded sessions would be great…I don’t have all the bells and whistles for zoom…no computer or monitor camera or mic…ya there’s still a few of us left out there…

  12. The seminar this morning sounds very interesting. I volunteer with prairie, woodland, wetland, and savanna restoration in the Chicago area.

  13. How do we get the links to the Zoom seminars? The one that you just completed was so helpful and informative, and so supportive of the “small” restoration or recreation as well as the vast swaths! Thank you so very much!

  14. Thank you, this post made my day! I didn’t know all those facts about harvestman, and now I feel even more compelled to speak up for them, and stop spreading the wrong facts about our ‘daddy long legs’ compared to the true ones in Australia.

  15. And an outdoor educator I always picked them up to show kids how harmless they are. Until one bit me! Not common but it truly happened.

  16. Chris, I would love it if you would do some webinars and record them. I long ago ran through about all of the prairie ecology presentations that I can find online. Much, much more would be greatly valued.

  17. Chris, to echo those above, recorded webinars would be amazing. I’m devastated I assumed that your photography session would be recorded. I’ll be sure and keep an eye on the blog for any further announcements. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

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