- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
"I just got bit by a brown recluse spider in California."
No, you didn't--unless you recently returned from a state where they are established or handled one shipped from that area. There are no established populations of Loxoceles reclusa in California.
So said doctoral candidates Emma Jochim and Xavier Zahnle of the Jason Bond arachnology lab when they dispelled myths in their 30-minute, family friendly session about arachnids at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, "Many Legged-Wonders," on Saturday, March 18. First-year doctoral student Iris Quayle of the Bond lab moderated the session. Their major professor, Jason Bond, is the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Jochim and Zahnle covered scores of myths. Here are their answers (abbreviated and shared here by Iris Quayle)
Myth: Arachnids and myriapods are insects.
Answer: No, they're not insects. You can tell them apart by the number of body segments and legs. Arachnids have two body segments and 4 pairs of legs. Insects have 3 body segments and 3 pairs of legs, and myriapods have lots of body segments with either one or two pairs of legs per segment.
Myth: Millipedes have 1000 legs and centipedes have 100 legs.
Answer: Only one recently (2021) species of millipedes has 1000 legs, actually 1300 plus, and that is Eumillipes persephone from Australia. Many soil centipedes have more than 100 legs.
Myth: Camel spiders can jump 4 to 6 feet straight up and eat the stomachs of camels.
Answer: Most solifugid species are 2-3 inches in length and definitely cannot bite into hard camel hide. They can have a bit of a bite for humans, but have no venom, though.
Myth: These are all daddy long legs (image shown of a harvester, crane fly, and cellar spider).
Answer: This depends on where you are from regionally. They all are referred to as "daddy long legs." Also, the myth of daddy long legs being super venomous is false as being dangerous to humans. Of this group, only the Pholcids (cellar spiders) have venom. The venom of cellar spiders can kill insects but is too weak to bother humans; their venom composition is very weak.
Myth: Black widows get their name because females always cannibalize males after mating.
Answer: That is why they got their name, but they are not the only spiders who do this. It is actually quite common fpr a a male to offer a nuptial gift in the form of a fly or other food source to deter the female from devouring him.
Myth: This creature (image of an amblypygid shown) exists only in the fictional world of Harry Potter.
Answer: Amblypygids are very real and are arachnids, but not spiders.
Myth: You consume eight spiders in your sleep every year.
Answer: It's highly unlikely that you will ever consume any in your sleep.
Myth: Every tick will give you a deadly disease
Answer: Ticks are vectors for lots of diseases. Here in California only the blacklegged tick carries Lyme disease.
Myth: Baby scorpions are deadlier than adults.
Answer: No, they do not produce enough to be deadly.
Myth: Both millipedes and centipedes bite.
Answer: Only centipedes bite and they are venomous.
Statements for the Audience: True or false?
The audience was invited to call out the answers.
Statement: There are spiders that can spit silk out of their mouth.
Answer: True. The family Scytodidae spit silk as well as produce silk though their spinnerets. Used for mating and prey capture.
Statement: Maternal care can be seen in some arachnids and myriapods.
Answer: True. Many arachnids carry their young on their backs, and myriapods will protect their egg clutch.
Statement: The grasshopper mouse is immune to scorpion venom.
Answer: True. Bark scorpions comprise the majority of its diet.
Statement: Some myriapods and all scorpions fluoresce.
Answer: True, main theories for scorpions are that they use this to communicate in the dark or to warn of predators. Main theory for myriapods is that it is to warn of predators. Some myriapods are eyeless (blind).
Bohart Open House. The Bohart Museum open house, held from 1 to 4 p.m., featured displays of arachnids. Visitors conversed with the scientists and held Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks from the Bohart's live petting zoo. Directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, the Bohart Museum houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens, plus the petting zoo and a gift shop. Located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, it is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 5 p.m. More information is available on the Bohart website at https://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by emailing email@example.com.
Resources on brown recluse spiders (Rick Vetter, UC Riverside)
- How to Identify and Misidentify a Brown Recluse Spider
- Myth of the Brown Recluse: Fact, Fear, and Loathing
- Recluse Spider Map