In dark, forgotten corners of houses and outbuildings, a spindly-legged spider hangs upside down - motionless - from a loose, barely visible web made of very fine threads. It is Pholcus phalangioides, the Daddy Long-leg Spider or Cellar Spider. Today, several hang from underneath a wooden shelf in my outside toilet, including the male above. This species is cosmopolitan but has recently expanded its range northwards in the UK, and it is almost always found associated to buildings.
A male showing its palps.
Mating pair. After an initial male approach and web and leg tapping, if the female accepts him, the partners approach their ventral surfaces and the male inseminates the female using his palps.
Pholcus is a very generalist predator and has no trouble subduing large prey. I have seen it with captured Tegenaria (above) even Dysdera (below), the latter a spider with enormous chelicerae. Pholcus is able to do so thanks to its long legs, as it throws silk to its prey and wraps it on silk while keeping a safe distance. It can also invade other spiders' webs and then makes them vibrate simulating the effect of an entangled prey, in order to attract the owners and catch them, a deceptive behaviour known as aggressive mimicry. It will also eat other spider's eggs and trapped prey. If Pholcus is disturbed in its own web it has a defensive behaviour called whirling: it moves its body rapidly in a circle, becoming a blur, while keeping its legs on the web, this might deter other spiders from entering its web but even so, Pholcus can often capture and eat these spiders.
Female Pholcus are dedicated mothers. They hold their egg clutch of about 20 to 30 eggs by their chelicerae. The eggs in this clutch are close to hatching. The spiderlings' legs are visible through the egg shell as white threads.
The spiderlings stay close to their mother for some days after hatching. She hasn't fed since she laid the eggs and she will have to wait until the spiderlings disperse.
Check this website for detailed information on Pholcidae.
Maciej Bartos (1998) Quantitative analyses of male courtship behaviour in Pholcus phalangioides
(Fuesslin, 1775) (Araneae, Pholcidae). In: P. A. Selden (ed.). Proceedings of the 17th European Colloquium of Arachnology, Edinburgh 1997. 171-176. here.
Kazuyoshi Miyashita (1988a) Development of Pholcus Phalangioides (Fuesslin) (Araneae, Pholcidae) under Long and Short Photoperiods. Journal of Arachnology, 16 (1), pp. 126-129.
Kazuyoshi Miyashita (1988b) Egg Production in Pholcus Phalangioides (Fuesslin) (Araneae, Pholcidae) under a Constant Temperature and Photoperiod. Journal of Arachnology, 16 (1), 129-131.
Jackson, R., & Brassington, R. (1987). The biology of Pholcus phalangioides (Araneae, Pholcidae): predatory versatility, araneophagy and aggressive mimicry Journal of Zoology, 211 (2), 227-238 DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.1987.tb01531.x