Five years ago I came across a very weird arachnid in a clump of grass by the side of the house. It was a harvestman – so eight legs like a spider (though much longer and finer), but with more of an all-in-one body shape.
But three things distinguished it from the standard grey-brown european harvestmen we commonly see: it was black and velvety; it had orange stripes; and most obvious of all, it had massively overgrown mouthparts (chelicerae).
By overgrown, I mean HUGE – thicker than its legs, though not longer. Weird and interesting enough that I’ve been hoping to come across another. Which I did, today.
We’d been carting old wool packs of rubbish down the steps to the trailer, filling it up for a trip to the quintessentially suburban Sunday destination, the rubbish tip. And there it was, just inside the top, looking a bit battered.
I carried it back up the hill, and all the while it beat against the inside of my cupped hands. I figured it wasn’t a biter, based on the shape of those mouthparts.
And then, out in the sunshine for some photo modelling. This one didn’t have the same orange stripes, but otherwise it was velvety black and outrageously equipped:
The females, on the other hand, are completely different: orange-brown and lacking in the giant chelicerae–so different that for many years they were thought to be a different species. I caught one of these a few months ago, but neglected to take photos. Small mercies, eh?
Anyway, what else will I find this summer? Wouldn’t mind one of those tailed spiders again…