Growing up in the country I've played with just about every kind of bug imaginable, there was even a time when entomologist was my career path, though I've had my fair share of bites and stings nothing stings me more than the tarnishing of a harmless harvester's reputation. Let me explain.
Single segment body - pill shaped, eight looooong legs, climbing on trees, twigs, plants, really anywhere in the woods is where these guys can be found. Growing up we knew these to be 'daddy long legs', giggling as they tickled climbing up our arms.
Then the stories came out, "daddy long legs are the most poisonous spider around", "use caution", "their fangs can't break human skin". After that we were hesitant to allow our late friends to climb up our arms, we started looking at them as dangerous creatures.
The truth of the matter is, this arachnid isn't even a spider, it's considered a harvestman (Opilione).
The most obvious differences between a spider and harvestman are:
In harvestmen the connection between the cephalothorax and abdomen is broad so the body appears to be a single oval structure.
The Opiliones (harvestman) have no venom glands nor silk glands and therefore don't build webs.
Other facts about the harvestman:
Their chelicerae are not hollowed fangs but grasping claws that are typically very small and not strong enough to break human skin.
They eat "primarily small insects and all kinds of plant material and fungi; some are scavengers, feeding upon dead organisms, bird dung and other fecal material."
The other 8 legged friend who has also been called a daddy long legs is the cellar spider (Pholcus Phalangioides) or the skull spider.
Named after it's location of residence (cellars, caves, garages) and it's distinctive pattern of the back of it's cephalothorax (resembles a human skull).
This spider puts on a big show when a predator gets too close, it vibrates its web creating an almost trampoline like effect startling and scaring off any predators.
However, to humans, this spider is harmless.
"Like all spiders, cellar spiders are predators. They eat Insecta, Araneae, and other small invertebrates. They spin a large loose, three-dimensional web (not flat like orbweavers) that is not sticky. They use their web as a kind of prey-detection system. When a passing insect bumps into it, they come running out and grab it and bite it, then wrap it in silk. Formicidae are particularly common prey.
Many cellar spiders also raid the webs of other spiders, eating their prey and the spiders themselves. They sometimes hunt around the edges of the webs of female spiders of other species. Males who come to mate with the female may get eaten by the cellar spider instead."
The cellar spider too is a friend and should be left to live a spider's life cleaning up more dangerous spiders.
The third being identified as a daddy long leg is the crane fly which resembles an overgrown mosquito.
The thing about the crane fly is when it's in its adult form (while looking like an overgrown mosquito) it doesn't bite nor sting. It spends most of its life as a larvae eating small invertebrate (including mosquito larvae).
Let it be known, the daddy long legs are friends to us all!
Every year between September 1st and November 30th the Summit County Metroparks host their annual Fall Hiking Spree. Hikers must complete 8 of the 15 trails listed in order to receive a metal badge that adorns the hiking stick you will receive upon completion of your first hiking spree. Spree is free to all Summit Co. residents, non-residents may participate but to receive hiking rewards it is $10 first year then $5 for veteran hikers.
List and more information can be found here.
For us, the hiking spree really motivated us to get out and explore more of the area's metroparks, sure we had a handful of favorites already, but years ago when we were new to the area it pushed us to explore more of the parks that we wouldn't have explored otherwise and we ended up finding a few new favorites.
This year to inspire all of you to get out and explore I'll be posting about each of the trails and hikes we complete. I'd love to hear your feedback about your experiences on each of the trails we post!
Sept 28, 2015 - Schumacher Trail
The Schumacher Trail is located on Cuyahoga St. off of Northampton Rd.
It begins with a few bridges leading you over a beautiful valley filled with trees, rocks, and stream, the sunlight dapples everything as you make your way along the path.
As you continue on you hardly notice the slow decent into the valley as the trail is calm and winding. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, you have a beautiful view of yet another ravine. It was here we really began seeing wildlife. Off in the distance you could see 3 deer taking a break for water then make their way up the other hill to find more nuts and leaves. Up in the treetops was quite a commotion, the grackles were harvesting the nuts from the beech trees, as they swarmed from tree to tree you were guaranteed a couple bonks on the head as they sent down flying bits of debris.
We then continued on down the valley, I found some interesting mushrooms which I will write about in another post. At this point we were at the intersection of the Valley Trail and Schumacher Trail, we decided to see what was down the Valley then turn back. Near the end of the trail, just before the towpath, was a bridge from which we were able to see a 'beach area'. We strolled down the trail to the beach and wandered around a bit, too chilly for 'beaching' but the sand was nice and it looked like many had spent hours of fun there. Turning back to get back to the Schumacher Trail we start to realize the hill we just climbed down, now we head up.
Twisting, turning, climbing.
Till at last we reach the top.
Greeted by the sweet easy bridges over the beautiful valley.
I now see where this park got it's '3' difficulty rating.
A beautiful trail with a surprise at the end!
Wildlife we saw:
Trees filled with grackles
3 White tail deer
As avid hikers, Noah and I have been to many, many, parks, forests, and preserves in our area, yet only last week did we find a 'new' park in our old hometown. -Barnes Preserve-
On Sylvan Rd. just past Secrest Rd. is a small turnoff with a wooden sign letting you know you've arrived. From there, let the adventurer in you take over; a bit of wandering and you'll find the path. Walking through the woods the path opens up and you can see where other people as well as equine have traveled through leading the way around the bend where a pond can be found just off the path. At the pond we were greeted by a choir of squeaking, peeping, and splashing frogs, the day we chose was a bit cloudy, windy, and chilly so not many other animals were out. While at the pond admiring the number of hickory trees and their yearly harvest I found a Hickory Tussock Moth Larva (the white and black caterpillar; about the caterpillar: poisonous to the touch but fun to watch (really though, it'll give you a pretty rough rash)!). From there we continued down the path where we came upon a brilliant bright yellow meadow of goldenrod "The Meadow Scenic Trail" a sign from years past still enduringly braves the elements to inform travelers of their whereabouts. The meadow reveals views of rolling hills and farms as far as the eye can see. Once you near the end of the meadow trail you will find a row of fruit trees and the remains of a barn, the fences still in tact. The end brings you to the Wayne County Care Center, we walked up the road to the park's informational kiosk, but couldn't find a loop back so we walked back up through the meadow (no complaints here, just noting).
In researching this park there are many, many great things in store, a little history of the park first, then feast your eyes on all the great additions soon to come!
History of the park:
The Barnes Preserve land was once part of the Wayne County Care Center's farm and is named after the Barnes family that operated the Care Center for many years.
After the farm at the Wayne County Care Center ended operations...
"The park district was organized in 1991 with three commissioners — Peter Sanford, Libby Bruch and Stewart Simonds. And while Simonds himself put in a few trails and science classes from Triway High School made paths there and put some semblance of a pond, there was no money to do much of anything else. The district made three failed attempts — in 1996, 1998 and 2001 — to pass a 0.25-mill levy. And in 2005, Van Pelt said, the park district lost one of its biggest champions when Simonds died unexpectedly.
In the meantime, a barn on the property was destroyed by fire, taking with it some picnic tables. The 2010 tornado that tore through the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center also hit the preserve, taking 70 trees with it.
But now, with the incorporation of a Friends of the Parks organization and the receipt of several grants, plans to develop the Barnes Preserve for future generations are rolling along. Simonds launched the Friends group in 1999 and it gained nonprofit status the next year. Four years ago, Van Pelt said, the all-volunteer organization was reactivated and now meets monthly alongside the park district’s commissioner. "
(Source: Wooster Weekly News July 2015)
The future of the park:
"The development of the Barnes Preserve is multi-faceted, consisting of five (5) separate phases and will address two existing problems. First, it will address the need for the development of the Wayne County Park District to increase the outdoor recreation opportunities available within the County. Second, it will address and resolve the need for a fully accessible outdoor recreation site in Wayne County, including meandering trails throughout the woods and meadow that are accessible for all Ohioans, specifically designed to fully include individuals with physical disabilities....
Upon its completion, the Barnes Preserve will provide non-motorized, diverse trails which allow for bicycle use, skating, walking and jogging; picnic areas, wildlife observation, photography areas, fishing, and playground equipment accessible to individuals of all abilities."
To be completed this fall....
"Installation of two parking lots; handicapped accessible lot is at Pavilion (Fall 2015)
Construction of fully accessible Pavilion and ADA compliant picnic tables (Fall 2015)
Construction of a wheelchair accessible observation deck at wetland pond at woods’ edge (2015) "
More info on Friends of the Wayne County Park District & Barne's Preserve can be found here.
Volunteers make it happen! Click the link to find out how you can get involved.
View images from our adventure below.
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.