Long-bodied Cellar Spider

A Long-bodied Cellar Spider discovers a piece of tomato.

Contributed by Josiah Ormsby

Josiah Ormsby took this photo at his house in Tehachapi of a Long-bodied Cellar Spider (Pholcus phalangiodes) on a piece of tomato. Josiah says that he was completely surprised to find the Cellar Spider on the small piece of tomato, which got overlooked and left behind when he was dicing tomatoes for tacos.

The Cellar Spider found the piece of tomato on its own, and appeared to be feeding on it — though it was probably just obtaining a few drops of moisture from the succulent tomato chunk.

A common misconception, which I have heard countless times, is that Cellar Spiders are the most venomous spider in the U.S. but can't harm humans because its fangs are too small to pierce human skin. Actually, neither claim is true: their venom is not very potent, which is what you would expect in a spider that typically preys on very small, weak flying insects, and their fangs can indeed puncture human skin — but it only causes a faint burning sensation that lasts a few seconds. I repeat: Cellar Spiders are NOT very venomous, and they CAN bite people, but they almost never do and their venom is insignificant. Please tell your family and friends and help put an end to this ridiculous urban myth.

Cellar Spiders have expanded their range along with people, since they cannot survive very cold weather and need to be able to live among humans in heated structures in areas where winter temperatures plummet. They are commonly found around ceilings and corners, and Cellar Spiders and their flimsy webs are often found in garages, outbuildings, basements, etc. The Nüwa (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for spider is huküba, pronounced hu-KOO-bah.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.