Are Daddy Long Legs Poisonous? Debunking the Common Myth

The mysterious world of arachnids continues to be the source of captivating myths and misconceptions.

One creature that has been at the center of speculation is the Daddy Long Legs.

With their delicate, spindly legs and seemingly harmless appearance, Daddy Long Legs have long been associated with a notorious myth—that they possess one of the most potent venoms in the animal kingdom, yet lack the ability to harm humans.

Daddy longlegs do not possess venom glands or fangs, making them harmless to humans and other animals.

Their classification as arachnids rather than spiders should help put some peoples’ fears to rest.

Are Daddy Long Legs Poisonous?

Daddy longlegs, commonly known as harvestmen, are often believed to be venomous spiders.

However, this is a widespread myth. In reality, daddy longlegs are arachnids, but they are not spiders. They actually belong to the Opiliones order and are more closely related to scorpions1.

Daddy longlegs characteristics:

  • One basic body segment
  • Two eyes
  • All eight legs attach to the pill-like body segment2

Unlike true spiders, daddy longlegs do not have venom glands and silk glands, making them harmless to humans34.

Furthermore, their mouthparts are not designed for biting or injecting venom.

Features of true spiders:

  • Two distinct body segments
  • Four pairs of eyes (in most cases)
  • Venom glands
  • Silk glands

Some misunderstandings might arise from the fact that there are two different creatures often referred to as daddy longlegs:

  • Harvestmen (Opiliones) – Non-venomous arachnids, more closely related to scorpions3.
  • Crane flies (Tipulidae) – Insects resembling oversized mosquitoes, with no mouthparts to bite1.

Both lack venom glands and are not capable of biting humans, making the myth invalid.

Here’s a comparison table to highlight the differences between daddy longlegs and venomous spiders:

CharacteristicsDaddy LonglegsVenomous Spiders
Body SegmentsOneTwo
EyesTwoUsually eight
Venom glandsNoYes
Silk glandsNoYes

Types of Daddy Long Legs

Opiliones

Opiliones, also known as harvestmen, are arachnids but not spiders. Some key features are:

  • Oval-shaped body
  • Segmentation is difficult to distinguish
  • Two eyes, no silk or venom glands

They usually prefer moist habitats and can be found under logs and rocks.

Cellar Spiders

Cellar spiders, belonging to the family Pholcidae, are true spiders.

Key characteristics:

  • Long and slender legs
  • Produce silk, but not dangerous to humans

Frequently found inside homes, particularly in dark and damp corners, they trap and feed on other insects and spiders.

Crane Flies

Crane flies are insects, a completely different species, from the family Tipulidae:

  • Long bodies and wings, resembling oversized mosquitoes
  • Many have no mouthparts at all

Their adult stage lasts for a few days, focusing on mating and laying eggs without biting.

Comparison Table

FeaturesOpilionesCellar SpidersCrane Flies
ClassArachnidsArachnidsInsects
Venom GlandsNoNoNot applicable
Silk ProductionNoYesNot applicable
Eyes2VariousCompound

Physical Features of daddy longlegs

Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen or opilionids, are arachnids but not spiders. They have a single, oval-shaped body segment, with long legs attached to it.

Some features include:

  • 1/16-1/2 inch long body
  • 8 legs, much longer than the body
  • 2 eyes, but can vary depending on the species

Male daddy longlegs have smaller bodies but longer legs compared to females.

Diet and Predation

Unlike spiders, daddy longlegs don’t produce silk or webs. Their diet mainly consists of:

  • Decaying organic matter
  • Small insects
  • Plant material

Their long legs help them catch prey, but they don’t have fangs.

An interesting fact about daddy longlegs is that they can shed their legs when attacked by predators, similar to how lizards can lose their tails.

Common predators of daddy longlegs include:

  • Birds
  • Mammals, like rodents
  • Larger arachnids, such as scorpions

Since they are not venomous, they pose no threat to humans or mammals. Mites often parasitize daddy longlegs, weakening them over time.

Comparison With Other Spider Species

Brown Recluse

The Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) is a venomous spider found in the United States. Its bite can cause a toxic effect in humans, leading to severe tissue damage in some cases.

Here are some key features of the Brown Recluse:

  • Body length: 0.25 – 0.75 inches
  • Color: Light to dark brown, with a distinctive dark violin pattern on their cephalothorax
  • Habitat: Prefer dark, secluded spaces indoors or outdoors

On the other hand, Daddy Longlegs are not venomous and their bite poses no threat to humans.

Black Widow Spider

The Black Widow Spider is a highly venomous spider known for its distinctive appearance and potentially dangerous bite.

Some characteristics of the Black Widow Spider include:

  • Body length: 0.5 – 1 inch (females); 0.25 – 0.5 inch (males)
  • Color: Shiny black, with a red hourglass pattern on their abdomen
  • Habitat: Webs constructed in dark, sheltered spaces like woodpiles, garages, and sheds

In contrast, Daddy Longlegs neither possess venom glands nor pose a risk to humans when it comes to their bites.

Here is a comparison table outlining the differences between Daddy Longlegs and the other two spider species:

FeatureDaddy LonglegsBrown RecluseBlack Widow Spider
VenomousNoYesYes
Toxic EffectNoneSevere tissue damageNeurotoxic
Venom GlandsAbsentPresentPresent
Bite Danger to HumansHarmlessPotentially severePotentially dangerous

Therefore, Daddy Longlegs are not venomous and do not pose the same risks as the Brown Recluse and Black Widow Spider species.

The Role of Daddy Long Legs in the Ecosystem

Daddy long legs, also known as harvestmen or opilionids, play a crucial role in the ecosystem. They are:

  • Beneficial because they feed on a variety of small insects and other invertebrates.
  • Known for consuming aphids, a common plant pest.
  • Helpful in controlling fungus and decomposing organic matter.
  • Predators of small worms, flies, and mosquitoes.

These characteristics not only help maintain balance in the ecosystem but also provide valuable contributions to humans and the environment.

Potential Threats

Despite the various benefits of having daddy long legs, they might pose some threats in certain situations.

They can be a nuisance for some people who are uncomfortable or frightened by their appearance.

However, it’s important to note that daddy long legs are generally harmless to humans and do not pose any significant risks to the environment.

Ultimately, their advantages outweigh any potential drawbacks, thus making them valuable creatures in maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

Interesting Facts and Trivia

Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen, are often mistaken for spiders due to their spindly legs and similar appearance.

However, they belong to a separate order called Opiliones and are not venomous, unlike some spiders like the brown recluse spider and the redback spider.

Daddy longlegs can be found on every continent, often inhabiting rooms and garages. They have a simple oval-shaped body, making it hard to tell where the “head” ends and the “abdomen” begins.

Some interesting features include:

  • Lack of silk and venom glands
  • Presence of only two eyes
  • Long legs that easily break off

While they may seem scary due to their appearance and urban myths of having a potent effect, daddy longlegs are harmless creatures.

They feed mainly on decomposing plant material and small insects, often using their long legs to grasp food.

Daddy longlegs are also different from crane flies or Tipulidae, which belong to the Diptera order. Despite their spider-like appearance, crane flies are insects with wings, and many species have no mouthparts at all.

Conclusion

The enigmatic world of arachnids shrouds Daddy Long Legs in myths and misconceptions.

While their delicate appearance sparks rumors of potent venom, these creatures lack venom glands and fangs, rendering them harmless to humans.

Their classification as arachnids distinct from spiders further clarifies their non-threatening nature. The fascinating truth about Daddy Long Legs dispels the myths, highlighting their vital roles in ecosystems and contributions to the delicate balance of nature.

Footnotes

  1. https://news.fnal.gov/2018/10/daddy-long-legs-15-interesting-facts/ 2 3 4
  2. https://spiders.ucr.edu/daddy-long-legs
  3. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/daddy-longlegs-harvestmen 2
  4. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/daddy-longlegs/
  5. https://entomology.ucr.edu/news/2022/01/14/are-daddy-longlegs-really-most-venomous-spiders-world 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about daddy long legs. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Colorful Harvestmen from Chile

Subject: Chilean Harvestman
Location: Caihuín
January 5, 2016 3:07 pm
Hi,
now I can send you some pictures of the Chilean Harvestmen we saw in the Alerce Costero National Park next to Caihuín. We learned that the green spider is the female and the yellow spider is the male, which makes sense because we found them together. They moved quite slowly but that might be caused by the low temperatures.
yours
Signature: Dörthe

Harvestman
Harvestman

Dear Dörthe,
Your Chilean Harvestmen images are quite wonderful, but as a point of clarification, Harvestmen belong to the order Opiliones, and they are not true spiders.  We believe we have correctly identified the species as Sadocus polyacanthus thanks to the Introducción al Orden Opiliones site.  It is also pictured on Biodiversidad Virtual.

Harvestmen
Harvestmen
Harvestman
Harvestman

Letter 2 – Crab Clawed Harvestman

spider help?
Hello,
I’m hoping you can help me idenfity this spider. I have seen many of them outside my home, thankfully none have made it inside. It’s probably about 2 inches at longest leg to leg and has what looks like fangs.

Are they dangerous? I am panicked about black widows and brown recluse. I live in eastern San Diego county where it gets quite warm. Thanks!
Audrey

Hi Audrey,
This is a Crab Clawed Harvestman in the family Sabaconidae, and probably the genus Taracus. We located it on BugGuide. Harvestmen are also called Daddy Long Legs and they are harmless.

Letter 3 – Daddy Long Legs Aggregation

Harvestmen / Daddy Long Legs
Donation to your site if you’d like. Was on the outside of our shed in mid-western Illinois.

That is quite an impressive crowd of Harvestmen you have there.

Letter 4 – Daddy Long Legs


>Found this outside my house yesterday near my trash cans. It is fairly large
(inch+) and did not appear to have a web. I looked around the internet and was unable to find anything that had the same kind of odd front legs and body shape. I’m sure its nothing special, but my curiosity got the better of me. I live in Fairfield, California by the way. Any idea?
Chad Harden

Hi Chad,
Daddy Long Legs or Harvestmen are harmless relatives of spiders in the Order Opiliones.

Letter 5 – Daddy Long Legs Spider from England

Subject:  Spider with eggs?
Geographic location of the bug:  England
Date: 06/26/2018
Time: 07:17 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi, I found this (girl, I assume) living in my back room in a corner. I  thought it had an oddly shaped body, but it appears to have eggs.  Can you identify this spider?
Thanks.
How you want your letter signed:  Cat

Daddy Long Legs Spider

Dear Cat,
Your Spider is
Pholcus phalangioides, and according to the British Arachnological Society:  “High up where the ceiling meets the wall, fine tangles of web are often the bane of the house-wife. Suspended upside down in these fine silken strands is a long-legged spider, Pholcus phalangioides, the Daddy Long-legs Spider.

During the day they remain perfectly still and are usually ignored by people. If disturbed, however, they will rapidly vibrate up and down in the web. They are only found inside buildings, particularly in southern England. At night, males go in search of females.

When a female is detected, the male gently vibrates her web and after some time approaches very slowly before attempting to mate.  Pholcus catches any unwary insect that gets caught in the web and quickly trusses it up in a bundle of silk. Pholcus will also feed on other spiders that come in range, including their own kind.

Having long legs is an advantage when dealing with potentially dangerous prey because Pholcus can draw threads from her spinnerets and flick them at the intruder from a distance. At the same time, the spider keeps itself well away from any danger. Once they are bound up, Pholcus bites its victim. Females can be seen with their eggs held between their chelicerae (jaws).

The spiderlings that hatch stay around their mother’s web. As they grow and moult they move further apart for, should one find another, it will eat its brother or sister.” According to Nature Spot:  “Their horizontal webs are large, loose and flat, but they can make them any shape to fit into surrounding objects.

They hang upside down on the web and if disturbed will shake violently. These spiders are effective predators of household pests including other spiders. They throw silk at their victim and, once snared, will bite, envenomating their prey – they’ll even go out hunting other spiders including Tegenaria species. They are also cannibalistic – eating each other if food is scarce.

On the other hand the females are excellent mothers. They carry their eggs in their mouths and have been seen feeding their young.”  This species is also found in North America where the common name is Longbodied Cellar Spider or Cellar Spider according to BugGuide where it states:  “Generally found in and around man-made structures, or in other types of disturbed habitats.”

Letter 6 – Harvestman

What the heck is this?
I love your website. I have learned SO much while searching for this beetle/spider/tick looking thing. I took pictures the best I could. I’m sorry if they aren’t as clear as they could be. This little guy was determined to get back under the rock. We live in Arkansas, up on top of a mountain, and it is very rocky up here. My husband was clearing some of the bigger rocks out of the back yard when he found one of these yesterday.

He didn’t get back to it in time to take a picture so he went back out there today and was able to find another. He was approximately 1 1/2″ total, legs and all. His body looks like a tick with no visible head that we could find. It appears to have eyes up on top of the front of his body.

I could even make out a smiley face when I looked at him upside down 🙂 Yes, I have spent WAY too much time looking at the pictures of this thing. I have scoured your website trying to find what he/she is but haven’t found him yet. Can someone please help me identify it? I know you are extremely busy so thank you so much for any help that you might be able to give us.

Thank you for the awesome resource you are providing!
Damon & Kristi Whitener
P.S. We didn’t kill him 🙂

Hi Damon and Kristi,
This is a harmless Harvestman. We believe we have found a match on BugGuide. It looks to us like Vonones ornata. You should submit your photos to BugGuide as they have not received any reports from Arkansas, though images of this genus have been submitted from surrounding states.

Letter 7 – Harvestman

Subject: Howdy from south Texas!
Location: A very rural part of Bexar county in south central Texas
September 28, 2012 5:07 pm
Howdy, bugman! This is a cool site, my daughters and I just had a fun time browsing through….
By any chance do y’all recognize this bug? My 9 year old assures me she’s a spider because she has 8 legs. We just took the picture today, September 28th. This ”spider” has been hanging out on our bug-covered south Texas porch for about 2 days…no evidence of a web anywhere!
Thanks in advance, we’re going nuts trying to figure out what we’re looking at here!
Signature: South Texas dad

Harvestman

Dear South Texas dad,
Your daughter was astute to count the legs, but this is not a Spider.  It is a Harvestman or Daddy-Long-Legs in the order Opiliones.  Harvestmen and Spiders are both Arachnids.  The markings on this individual are quite distinctive, yet we could not find a match on BugGuide.  We do have a matching image of a Harvestman from Wimberly, Texas in our own archive, but we never identified the species.  Harvestmen lack venom and they are perfectly harmless.

Hi Daniel, thanks so much for writing us back with that amazing information! My daughter was thrilled to get your compliment, too 🙂 Wimberly is just up the road from us so I imagine the picture in the link you sent us is probably a close relative of our harvestman..and we are all glad to know she’s harmless!
Thanks again 🙂

Letter 8 – Harvestman

Subject: It’s a tick, it’s a spider, it’s a ??
Location: Lawton, Oklahoma
June 11, 2013 1:04 pm
Dear Bugman,
My son and I are very curious about a bug we found in our house. I have found 3 live ones and two dead in a week. One was on our curtain and the rest on the floor. They have eight long legs, not as long as a daddy long leg, more like a spider.

They also appear to have one abdomen which is brown on the back and a tan color underneath. They appeared after my husband sprayed our yard and mowed the grass. He says they are much too big to be ticks. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you!
Signature: Matlock Family

Harvestman
Harvestman

Dear Matlock Family,
You are correct that this is not a Tick.  This is a Harvestman in the Arachnid order Opiliones.  Distantly related to Spiders, Harvestmen do not have venom.  The Daddy Long Legs you mentioned is another name for one group of Opiliones.  See BugGuide for more information on Harvestmen.

Letter 9 – Harvestman

Subject: What is this?
Location: Traverse City, Michigan
September 25, 2014 6:20 am
This guy was found outside in a kids Little Tikes wagon a couple days ago. The picture was taken with a cell phone but I’m not sure about the exact size.
Signature: Karrie

Harvestman
Harvestman

Hi Karrie,
This is an arachnid in the order Opiliones, and members of the order are commonly called Harvestmen.

Letter 10 – Harvestman

Subject: spider
Location: atascadero, ca
April 4, 2015 10:22 pm
Hi. A friend took a picture of this spider. Central Coast California.
Signature: I don’t know.

Harvestman
Harvestman

Your Harvestman appears to be in the family Sabaconidae based on images posted to BugGuide, and it looks the closest to the Snail Eating Harvestmen in the genus Taracus, in our opinion, especially in this BugGuide image.

Awesome! Thanks for taking the time! You guys are Awesome! My daughter and I have been looking up bugs on your site since She was probably 2-3 years old. I remember the first one we looked up was the tarantula hawk! She is now 14 years old! Thanks again, have a great day!

Wow, you have been with us since almost the very beginning.  Thanks for letting us know.

Letter 11 – Desert Harvestmen

Subject: Assassin Bug or Spider?
Location: Palm Desert, CA
April 7, 2017 10:02 pm
Hi Bugman,
This morning I encountered scores of what I thought were spiders were all over the shear rock slope, off a hiking trail in Palm Desert.
The body was about an inch long, the legs were striped and really long. The front legs seemed to be about 4″ or more long and extended way out in front.

They were really well camouflaged on the rocks. I was taking photos of one with my phone and soon realized they were everywhere in a 100′ length on the upslope side of the trail. Two seemed to crawl into a small crevice when a 2″ black beetle started climbing up the rock about a foot away.

The 2 bugs disappeared into the rock and the beetle never made up the steep rock wall.
All of the mystery bugs were about the same size. Maybe it’s mating season?
It was overcast around 9 AM. and this would’ve been the shady side of the hill. The trail has about 45° grade. I’ve not seen these bugs before.

I included wide shot of the rock wall. There is at least 1 in the wide shot.
Reading about assassin bugs makes be glad I didn’t get to close…
Signature: Hiking the Desert

Desert Harvestman

Dear Hiking in the Desert,
These are not Assassin Bugs, nor are they Spiders.  They are Harvestmen in the order Opiliones, and they do bear a resemblance to Spiders because like Spiders, they are members of the Arachnid class.  Unlike Spiders, they are not venomous, hence they pose no danger to humans. 

Finding them on the shady side of the trail makes sense.  According to BugGuide:  “In some cases, in dry climates, they gather in large numbers during the day, probably to avoid dessication, and wander about in search of food after the sun goes down.”

Desert Harvestman

Update courtesy of Diane
Diane who submitted the images just sent us a BugGuide link to the Desert Harvestman, genus Eurybunus, which sure looks like her individuals.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults found in winter and Spring.”

Letter 12 – Harvestman

Subject: Six-legged spider?
Location: Norfolk County, Ontario
August 29, 2015 9:18 am
Is this a spider that has lost two of its legs? Or some kind of insect? Seen on a morning glory vine in summer in Norfolk County, Ontario.
Signature: Tim

Harvestman
Harvestman

Dear Tim,
Your Arachnid is a Harvestman or Daddy-Long-Legs in the order Opiliones, and it is missing several legs.  Like Spiders, Opiliones have four pairs of legs, but they do not have poison glands, so they are harmless.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

7 thoughts on “Are Daddy Long Legs Poisonous? Debunking the Common Myth”

    • Awesome. Thanks for informing us of the species identification. Drilling down to the species level sometimes takes more time than we have considering the number of requests we receive. Also, we did not realize you were Diane from Corralitas Red Car Property.

      Reply
    • Thanks for your addition to our post. We are never quite able to provide all the interesting information available on all the postings we make.

      Reply

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