Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 04/19/2015

Photo taken on July 23, 2014

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Reader Rock Garden
Phalangium opilio

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After a volunteer shift on 23 July 2014, I wasn't too far away from the Erlton/Roxboro Natural Area, where I was finally going to go on a botany walk with friends. Having been to this location several times before, I knew it was a short, easy, flat trail, and that I could go as far as I wanted and then turn back early, which is what I did. I missed pretty well all the botany and birding walks last year, which was quite depressing. The main thing I wanted to see there were the Nodding / Musk Thistles, as they are my favourite species of Thistle. They are called a "weed", but they are beautiful and I love to see and photograph them.

With a couple of hours to "kill" between volunteering and the walk, I spent them at the Reader Rock Garden, which was just a few minutes' drive away from the evening botany walk location. Happened to notice this Harvestman (hope I have the correct ID) hanging out on a leaf.

“What most people do not seem to know is that they are not spiders, but members of a different group that is closely related to spiders, and they should correctly be called Harvestmen.

There are at least eight species of harvestmen in Alberta, but Phalangium opilio is by far the most likely to be seen. They look rather spider-like, but the legs are much longer and thinner than those of most spiders and they have only one body part as opposed to the two that spiders have. They also lack the poison glands and the silk-producing glands that spiders have.

The biggest myth concerning Harvestmen concerns how poisonous they are. They are not poisonous, and completely lack the toxin producing glands that spiders have. They do have scent glands that produce a peculiar smelling fluid when the animal is disturbed. This probably acts as a repellant to some predators.

Found throughout Alberta. Harvestmen are found throughout the world, but Phalangium opilio is restricted to North America, Europe and temperate Asia.” From the Royal Alberta Museum.