Daddy Longlegs (Harvestman):Not an Insect

I know this is a crazy photo of this daddy longlegs but he wasn’t going to cooperate with me at all. He had been sitting near his web waiting but when he saw me move closer, he went like lightning down to the bottom of the deck railing to a safe place. I zoomed in as much as possible and got this shot of him hanging out.
So here is what I learned from page 295 from the Handbook of Nature Study. “The word insect is often applied incorrectly to any minute animal; but the term should be restricted to those forms possessiong six legs and belonging to the class, Hexapoda. The name Hexapoda is from two Greek words: hex, six; and pous, foot. It refers to the fact that the members of this order differ from other arthropods in the possession of only six feet. Thus spiders, which have eight legs, are not insects.” So even though we are focusing on insects for the fall term, we still enjoyed seeing this creature that is really an arachnid.

What is a spider? Spiders are arachnids not insects, but both spiders and insects belong to the largest group of animals on Earth, the arthropods - animals with hard external skeletons and jointed limbs (greek arthro = joint, podos = footed). So there you have it the difference between insects and spiders. :)

Edit: Here are some more links to learn about daddy long legs.

Daddy Long legs or vibrating spiders
Daddy Long legs Myths

And I found an article that even says that daddy long legs are not even spiders. Here is an exerpt:”Although they resemble spiders, daddy long-legs, more correctly called harvestmen, are neither spiders nor insects. Taxonomically, they are arthropods, in the same class as spiders, Arachnida, but in a different order, Phalangida. Anatomically daddy long-legs differ from spiders because their three body segments — head, thorax and abdomen, are joined as one compact body segment. Spiders have two body segments — the head and thorax are joined as the cephalothorax, and the abdomen is the second body segment. Insects, which are taxonomically in the class Insecta, have three distinct body segments.” Found at Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

So now I can’t even say that the daddy longlegs is even a spider! It is technically an arthropod, an Arachnida, and in the order of Phalangida. Whew! This is getting hard to keep track of but I am learning a lot.

Red Aphids



Now that we are focusing on insects, it seems we find them everywhere we look. This morning we were out on the deck looking at the flowers and look what we found right under our noses!

These little red guys are just crawling all over the chrysanthemums.

These red aphids I believe are Goldenglow aphids.
Dactynotus rudbeckiaeHere is what Anna Botsford Comstock says on page 295 about insects, “The abundance of insects makes it easy to study them. They can be found where-ever man can live, and at all seasons. This abundance is even greater than is commonly supposed. The number of individuals in a single species is beyond computation; who can count the aphids or the scale-insects in a single orchard, or the bees in a single meadow?”

Indeed, after taking a look at these aphids on my chrysanthemum, I can only agree. We are just scratching the surface in really “seeing” all the insects around us everyday.

Nature Study: Starting a Year-Long Tree Study (Late Summer)

Last Friday we spent some time over at my parents’ house down the road from our place. They have a great pond and we took the opportunity to do our nature study time there this week. As the days get shorter and the leaves begin to turn colors, I feel the need to fit in some time outdoors before the season slips away.

So we made ourselves a little “jilly jar” pond scooper (Amateur Naturalist page 146) and we dipped in to find lots of interesting things to examine. We found three little fish, a pond snail, a whirlygig beetle, and another unknown insect. My son caught a Pacific Tree frog in a jar and we took some time to look at him and enjoy his sweet little face.

  Jilly Jar pond study

Here are some of our nature journal entries for the day. We used our field guides to identify the critters we found and we even used our pond guide to identify the duckweed floating on top of the pond. We each picked a tree to identify and realized that our tree identification book wasn’t as thorough as we would like so we made a note to pick up a new one the next time we were at the book store.

Oak nature journal
My son picked an oak to sketch and he also made a leaf rubbing.

Pacific Tree Frogpond fish
Here are some more journal entries for the frog and the fish.

nature journal pond entry
The boys also did some exploring in the woods and found a great spot to stake out a place to come back and observe each month. They chose a place that has a tree and some stacked wood because they thought it might include a place that a critter may live. We shall have to see and we will share our results.

square study woods
If you look carefully you can see the purple yarn and tent stakes that we used to mark our square in the woods.

So that was some of our nature day from last week. I will list some of the books we used to get our ideas for the activities for the day so you can check your library for similar books. I absolutely adore the “One Small Square” series and this is the first time we used it for the pond study. I highly recommend this series to get you started with nature study.

http://handbookofnaturestudy.com/2009/09/outdoor-hour-challenge-autumn-series_25.html