Eastern Harvestman (Leiobunum vittatum)
Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Eastern Harvestman.
Updated: 3/1/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The eight-legged Eastern Harvestman is a harmless type of arachnid that unfortunately suffers from its kinship to spiders.
Harvestman are not spiders, though they resemble them in many ways. They are relatives of the spider in that they are both from the same Order. The Harvestman does not have fangs, are not venomous, and do not bite. Their mandibles are far too small for humans to feel any kind of sensation should they even try. Their eight long, spindly legs do more for them than help them travel. The second pair of legs act like antennae and are very sensitive. This second pair of legs also helps a Harvestman capture prey, as well as smell surroundings and even breathe (through holes on their legs called spiracles). If the second pair of legs are lost, the Harvestman will die. The body of a Harvestman is completely fused and round, not segmented like other arachnids.
Harvestman are well camouflaged in their habitat and some species have the ability to spray a pungent scent from a gland between their first pairs of legs. Perhaps the most bewildering form of defense against a predator is self-amputation. A Harvestman will remove one of its own legs (not one from the critical second pair, however) to distract a predator. The removed leg can twitch for up to an hour, allowing the Harvestman time to escape. Sadly, the leg cannot grow back so it is a costly form of self-protection.
Males actually have a penis that is used to deposit sperm. After mating, females deposit fertilized eggs with an ovipositor in deep moss, moist soil, or rotten wood. Individual adults will huddle together on cold autumn nights to keep warm. They are nocturnal and are usually seen roaming forest floors and stone walls, but sometimes are found indoors in dark places like garages, cellars, and basements. Adults eat insects, worms, and snails, and even try to make a meal from dead prey they encounter.