If you live in a more rural area, or you’ve ever gone camping, you’ve probably run into this strange-looking creature – the Daddy Longlegs. They often hang out in large groups in corners.
Many people think they are venomous, and try to kill them on sight. But are they as dangerous or scary as people make them out to be?
What is a Daddy Longlegs ‘spider’?
First, we’ll start off with ‘what is a daddy longlegs’ for those who have never seen one before, and we’ll also clear up some misconceptions about them.
Despite calling them ‘spiders’, Daddy Longlegs aren’t truly spiders. To start off with, the body shape is different – normal spiders have two distinct body parts, while Daddy Longlegs only have one. Second, Daddy Longlegs only have two eyes, not eight, like a typical spider. Daddy Longlegs also can’t spin webs or produce silk of any kind. The typically Daddy Longlegs will have a small brown or grey body, and eight spindly legs that remind the casual observer (or someone who isn’t afraid of arachnids) of someone walking on stilts. They’re also often very slow-moving.
Daddy Longlegs are still classified under the order of Arachnida, but just in the way that butterflies are insects but not beetles, Daddy longlegs are arachnids but not spiders.
And unlike many spiders, Daddy Longlegs are beneficial to humans. They eat spiders, earthworms, and other insects. They’ll also scavenge for dead insects, decaying plant material, or insect eggs if they are unable to catch live prey. Because they eat aphids (an insect detrimental to garden plants) many people like to have them in their garden.
Daddy Longlegs are in the order opiliones, and are often called Harvestmen because they tend to appear in the fall right around harvest time. They are also mostly active at night.
Fun Fact: The Daddy Longlegs can dis-attach a leg if it becomes stuck or trapped and can go on living their lives as an arachnid with no problem. The leg won’t grow back, but the arachnid has easily learned how to adapt over the last couple of millennia, so it’s not uncommon to see a Daddy Longlegs with only seven legs instead of eight.
Are Daddy Longlegs Poisonous?
The answer is no. There is an urban myth that Daddy Longlegs are actually extremely venomous, but their fangs are too small or short to bite you. This myth is untrue. Daddy Longlegs not only don’t really have fangs, but aren’t venomous at all.
(Note: it’s important to be aware that the terms venomous and poisonous are NOT interchangeable. Poison is a toxin that gets into the body by being swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed into the skin. Venom is a specialized poison that enters the body by being injected via. bite or sting. An example of a poisonous creature is the pufferfish, and an example of a venomous one is the black widow. It’s also important to note that a creature can be both venomous and poisonous at the same time, such as the blue ringed octopus, which is venomous if it bites you with its beak but poisonous if you eat it.)
Are you sure Daddy Longlegs aren’t spiders?
We’re pretty sure. Many types of spiders have been mistakenly called by the common name ‘Daddy longlegs’ because their legs are also long, but they aren’t truly Daddy Longlegs, which are the harvestmen.
There has been controversy over whether or not Daddy Longlegs should even be considered part of the Arachnid family, and there has even been controversy over the basic features of the Daddy Longlegs, such as the arachnid having two eyes or not being able to spin webs. And, of course, there’s the myth that they are venomous. As of currently, many people use the colloquial term ‘Daddy Longlegs’ to describe several species. To clear up the misunderstanding, people started using the common name ‘harvestman’ instead when referencing the real Daddy Longlegs. So if you’re ever uncertain when online, use the name harvestman instead of Daddy Longlegs to get correct results.
The biggest confusion is caused by the Cellar Spider (note: a REAL spider), which is a pholciade spider that is often called Daddy Longlegs, but isn’t really. Other types of spiders that are also mistakenly called Daddy Longlegs are the Common House Spider, the Yellow Sac Spider, Running Crab Spiders, and False Black Widows.
(Please also note that the reason the Cellar Spider and the Harvestmen are confused is that people have interchanged the name ‘Daddy Longlegs’ between them so often that many people mistakenly believe the Cellar Spider is the real ‘Daddy Longlegs’, and sometimes even mix up the traits the two creatures have, which causes more controversy. However, please rest assured that the Harvestmen are the originals, unless further proof is offered by scientists.)
What do I do if I find one in my home?
To be honest, you probably won’t find one inside your home, or if you do, the occurrence will be extremely rare. Harvestmen (the true Daddy Longlegs) prefer being outside, where their biggest food source is, and will almost never come into a human’s house. That’s another difference between the Cellar Spider and the Harvestmen – if you find a lot of Daddy Longlegs lookalikes in your home, you’ve likely got an infestation of Cellar Spiders, who love in house in human homes, while Harvestmen are almost never seen inside houses.
If you find Cellar Spiders, call in the spider extermination experts.
But, on the off chance that you do find a Harvestman in your home, don’t be afraid! Like we said before, the Harvestmen (as we will call them for the remainder of this article to avoid confusion) are beneficial to humans and aren’t dangerous at all. So we prefer to leave them alone. However, if you do feel the need to get them out of your house (whether it’s because they’re creeping you out or sitting on your favorite chair), you can gently sweep them outside with a broom. You can also pick them up if you must, and then gently place them outside on your porch. They’ll find their way back into the great outdoors from there.
There are still many things we have to learn about these arachnids, but they’re pretty cool! However, we totally understand if you don’t want them in your home or you have an infestation on a structure outside. If you do and want them gone, feel free to call Pure Pest! We’re happy to go over options with you, so just give us a call!