Are Daddy Long Legs Spiders? Debunking Myths and Facts

Daddy long legs, often considered spiders, belong to two different groups of arachnids: pholcid spiders and harvestmen.

While both have long legs, there are some distinctions that set them apart, leading to confusion surrounding their classification.

Pholcid spiders, sometimes referred to as cellar spiders or long-bodied cellar spiders, do fall under the category of spiders. They possess two body segments, eight eyes, fangs, and venom glands, and produce silk.

Some common features of pholcid spiders include their delicate legs and ability to be found in many types of buildings throughout the year.

On the other hand, harvestmen are arachnids belonging to the order Opiliones and are not classified as spiders. Some distinguishing features of harvestmen include:

  • Single body segment
  • Two eyes
  • No fangs or venom glands

Since they are not venomous and do not produce silk, it is interesting to note they are actually closer to scorpions than spiders.

Are Daddy Long Legs Spiders

Daddy Long Legs: Myth and Reality

Origin of the Name

Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen, are prevalent in folklore on almost every continent except Antarctica. They get their name from their long, thin legs, which give them a unique appearance reminiscent of the limbs of an old man.

Common Misconceptions

Venomous spiders: Contrary to popular belief, daddy longlegs are not venomous spiders. In fact, they’re not even spiders at all!

MythBusters episode: A well-known myth surrounding daddy longlegs is that they have the most potent venom of any spider, yet their fangs are too small to pierce human skin.

This myth was debunked by MythBusters, who demonstrated that not only are daddy longlegs not venomous, but they also have no fangs to deliver venom.

Playground legend: Despite their harmless nature, daddy longlegs have been a source of scary stories and myths since ancient times.

Often, children have spread tales about the supposed dangers of these creatures during recess, fueling misinformation about these arachnids.

Comparison between Spiders and Daddy Longlegs

FeatureSpidersDaddy Longlegs
Body Segments21
Venom GlandsYesNo
Silk GlandsYesNo
Number of Eyes6 to 82

Characteristics of Daddy Longlegs

  • One main body segment
  • Two eyes
  • No venom or silk glands
  • Long, delicate legs that can easily break off

Having a clear understanding of the myth and reality behind daddy longlegs helps promote accurate information, dispelling misconceptions that have persisted for generations.

Classification and Types of Daddy Long Legs

Opiliones

Opiliones, also known as harvestmen, are a type of arachnid belonging to the order Opiliones. They differ from spiders in several ways:

  • Single body segment
  • Two eyes
  • No fangs or venom glands
Harvestmen

With these characteristics, Opiliones are not considered spiders or venomous. Some interesting features of Opiliones include:

  • Long, slender legs
  • Ability to lose a leg to escape predators
  • No silk production

Cellar Spiders

Cellar spiders, from the family Pholcidae, are a group of spiders that are sometimes mistaken for daddy long legs. They have the following features:

  • Two body segments
  • Eight eyes
  • Fangs with venom glands

As a part of the order Araneae, cellar spiders are true spiders. They can spin silk and create webs to capture prey.

Crane Flies

From the family Tipulidae, Crane flies are insects, not arachnids, often mistaken for large mosquitoes. Major differences between crane flies and daddy long legs are:

  • Six legs instead of eight
  • Two wings for flying
  • Antennae and three body segments

Below is a comparison table of the three types discussed:

FeatureOpilionesCellar SpidersCrane Flies
Arachnid/InsectArachnidArachnidInsect
Segments123
Eyes282 (compound)
Fangs & Venom GlandsNoYesNo
WingsNoNoYes
Silk ProductionNoYesNo
A Cranefly

Anatomy and Appearance

Body Structure

Daddy long legs are arachnids, but they are not considered spiders. They belong to the order Opiliones, which makes them closer to scorpions. Their body is oval-shaped, with a single body segment.

The adult body size ranges from 1/16 to 1/2 inch long, and males usually have smaller bodies but longer legs than females.

Eyes

These creatures have only one pair of eyes, unlike spiders which typically have eight1. Their eyesight is often limited, relying more on their long legs to sense their surroundings.

Fangs

Daddy long legs do not have fangs or venom glands, as opposed to spiders that do. This means they are not venomous and pose no threat to humans.

Habitat and Behavior

Environment Preferences

Daddy long legs, also known as harvestmen or opilionids, are arachnids that can be found in various environments. They typically prefer:

  • Moist habitats
  • Living under logs and rocks

These creatures are not spiders, though they may appear similar. They lack silk glands and venom glands, which are common in spiders.

They also have one body segment and only two eyes, while spiders have two body segments and usually eight eyes.

Mating and Reproduction

The process of reproduction in daddy long legs can be simplified as follows:

  1. Male daddy longlegs have a direct transfer of sperm to the female
  2. Female daddy longlegs store the sperm in specialized structures called spermathecae
  3. Eggs are fertilized internally within the female

The main differences between daddy long legs and spiders during reproduction include:

FeatureDaddy Long LegsSpiders
Silk ProductionNoneProduce Silk
Venom GlandsNoneHave Venom Glands
EgglayingIn soilIn silk webs2

It’s important to note that daddy longlegs can easily detach their legs when attacked by predators, which is a behavior not observed in spiders.

In summary, daddy longlegs have unique habitats and behavioral traits that set them apart from spiders. They prefer moist environments, reproduce differently, and lack silk and venom glands.

Diet and Predation

Prey

Daddy longlegs are opportunistic feeders, meaning they eat a variety of small insects and other arthropods. Their diet includes:

  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Mites
  • Small insects

For example, daddy longlegs can efficiently capture and eliminate flies in your house, helping to keep the environment clean.

Natural Enemies

Daddy longlegs have several predators that hunt them down for food. These predators include:

  • Mice
  • Birds
  • Large spiders
  • Scorpions

Here is a comparison table showing the main prey and natural predators of daddy longlegs:

PreyPredators
FliesMice
MosquitoesBirds
MitesLarge spiders
Small insectsScorpions

Are Daddy Long Legs Venomous?

Venom Analysis

Daddy long legs, also known as cellar spiders or harvestmen, have a common misconception of being highly venomous. However, research shows that they are not venomous.

Though they belong to the arachnid family, they do not possess the venom glands found in venomous spiders.

Here’s a comparison table to help differentiate between the different types of daddy long legs:

Type of Daddy Long LegsVenomous?Spider or Not?
Cellar SpidersNoYes
HarvestmenNoNo (Arachnid)
Crane FlyNoNo (Insect)

Biting Abilities

Daddy long legs, whether cellar spiders or harvestmen, lack the ability to bite humans. Their chelicerae (mouthparts) are too small to penetrate human skin, making them harmless creatures despite their creepy appearance.

Features of daddy long legs:

  • Extremely long legs
  • Chelicerae (grabby mouthparts) too small to bite humans
  • Not venomous
  • Can break off their legs to escape predators

Beneficial Roles and Health Concerns

Pest Control

Daddy long-legs spiders, or Pholcus phalangioides, also known as long-bodied cellar spiders, play a vital role in controlling pests.

They are beneficial arachnids because they feed on other insects, including harmful spiders such as black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa).

As a result, they can help maintain a healthy ecological balance.

Some important features of daddy long-leg spiders include:

  • Feeding on various pests, such as spiders, ticks, and insects
  • Being non-aggressive and harmless to humans
  • Living in various locations, including cellars, garages, and attics

Daddy long-leg spiders have a few advantages as natural predators:

Pros:

  • Effective in reducing the population of harmful spiders
  • Non-venomous and pose little to no danger to humans
  • Require minimal maintenance, as they can survive with little resources

Cons:

  • Might create unsightly webs in certain areas
  • Can increase in population if left unchecked
  • Not as effective as chemical pest control methods

Medical Significance

When it comes to health concerns, daddy long-legs spiders should not be a cause for alarm. Contrary to some myths, they are not venomous like black widow spiders or brown recluse spiders.

According to arachnologist Rick Vetter, a retired research associate in entomology at the University of California, Riverside, daddy long-leg spiders lack the venom glands and fangs required to inject venom.

Comparison Table:

FeatureDaddy Long-legs SpidersBlack Widow SpidersBrown Recluse Spiders
VenomsNoYesYes
Danger to HumansLowHighHigh
Role in Pest ControlBeneficialHarmfulHarmful
Common HabitatsCellars, Garages, AtticsOutdoors, Dark PlacesIndoors, Hidden Areas

Conclusion

In summary, daddy long legs are often mistakenly considered spiders, but they are actually part of the arachnid family. They are more closely related to scorpions and fall under the order Opiliones.

Unlike spiders, they have only one body segment, one pair of eyes, and no fangs or venom glands. They are known for their long legs and the ability to break them and escape predators.

While discussing the topic of daddy’s long legs, it’s important to remember the differences and similarities between them and spiders.

By keeping in mind the information presented in this article, you can confidently speak about daddy long legs and their unique features.

Footnotes

  1. Daddy Long Legs | Spider Research 2 3 4 5

  2. Are daddy longlegs really the most venomous spiders in the world? 2 3 4 5 6 7

  3. Daddy-longlegs | Home & Garden Information Center 2 3 4 5 6

  4. https://extension.psu.edu/longbodied-cellar-spider 2 3 4

  5. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/spiders-in-the-home-5-512/

  6. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/daddy-longlegs/

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 – Harvestman

A really charming Mystery “Bug”
Hello!
A care package of spiffy treats!!! (organic jams, delightful whole-leaf teas, etc.)… …to whoever can relieve me of my obsessive and unsuccessful search for the identification of the delightful leggity being I photographed on a piece of Doug-fir firewood last spring.

Attached. I named the photos “red spider boyee” as a mnemonic, not sure it is a spider. Is it a whip scorpion? Reminds me of the general vinegaroon body plan…and has that delightful flat lapstrake butt.

It was under the tarp, dazed by the early morning light, and very shy. Nocturnal behavior. Also, it was on the woodpile on our patio, which is frequently accessed. So must have come in the night.

I took the photo and then covered it back up. The growth rings on this Doug-fir chunk are maybe 2 mm each (red and yellow, each) so we’re talking about an overall body length of not much more than a centimeter. CUTE.

I looked and looked and looked, normally able to find anything on the World Wide Web. But no luck. … I am writing from just outside Olympia, WA, in the rapidly suburbanizing wooded hinterlands of Pugetopolis. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.


Michele Gale-Sinex
Olympia, WA

Hi Michelle,
This is a Harvestman in the order Opiliones, which contains the Daddy Long Legs. This particular Harvestman is in the suborder Laniatores. There are several photos on BugGuide from Oregon, but none from Washington.

Using their raptorial pedipalps, Laniatores prey on small invertebrates. Are you really sending us a care package???

Update: Michelle received this more thorough reply shortly after our response
Dear Michele,
Your specimen is definitely a harvestman (arachnid order Phalangida or Opiliones) of the suborder Laniatores. It is a fine example of why arachnologists never use the term “daddy-longlegs”!

The most likely species for you to have there is Sclerobunus nondimorphicus of the family Triaenonychidae. However, there is a remote chance of finding one of the old-growth obligate species of the genus Pentanychus or Isolachus (Pentanychidae).

All these species look pretty much the same in the top view, and in fact, dissection is needed for definitive ID. Harvestmen are chiefly predatory but can scavenge as well.

Unlike pseudoscorpions they do not have the chelate, scorpion-like pedipalps. They have no silk or venom. In this particular group of harvestmen, the palps are spiny.

The two centrally located eyes are another thing that might tell you that it’s a harvestman, as well as the sub-segmented leg tarsi. I’m amazed to find very little Sclerobunus info on the internet.

However, Wikipedia has a bare-bones illustrated article on S.robustus (which does not occur in western Wash.). S. nondimorphicus is so common here I have over 120 vials of them in my collection.

The very small amount of published info on this species is in this paper: http://www.archive.org/stream/occasionalpapers90cali/occasionalpapers90cali_djvu.txt PS. I’d welcome any caffeinated tea. Don’t use much jam. 🙂
Rod Crawford, Burke Museum, Seattle, USA

Dear Daniel–
I’m so excited!! I have a photo and letter published on WTB! This is better than the times my ex got two letters published in the Archie McPhee catalog, or when my husband showed the Dalai Lama his 3D tattoo! Opiliones!

We LOVE those guys. I can see it now with your identification. The two eyes on top–duh. Rod Crawford at the Burke Museum (U. of WA Seattle), and Pugeopolis’s spider expert, also replied.

You put in a lot of work on this site, I’ve read What’s That Bug? for years, and it is one of my favorite-ever Web sites. If I had to give up all Web sites but one, I’d cry while surrendering /The Onion/…but I’d do it, for What’s That Bug?

But we still have a universe to learn about bugs. You do more for the evolution of the human spirit and mind than most churches. Wait, that’s not saying much. OK, never mind the comparison.

You encourage people to evolve compassion and connection. You encourage respect and appreciation for our ancestors and neighbors.

I love the site’s vilification of savagery against arthropods, its tone of affection and respect for these creatures, and its affirmation of their beauty and importance.

I love the way you lay it on the line around the stupidity of killing beneficial insects, and our need to face our silly fears and grow past them. I love the way you encourage the heretical belief, based on empirical evidence, that Nature Bats Last.


So of COURSE you get a care package. So–where are you? Strawberry, raspberry, apricot, citrus marmalade, or mixed berry? For tea–green? oolong? black? Pu-erh? Need steeping instructions? How many of you ARE there? Iowa’s a big state.

I know that because we’re expatriate Cheezers. Peace
Michele

Ed. Note: We replied to this wonderful letter offline, but for the record, the offices of What’s That Bug? are in Los Angeles.

Letter 2 – Harvestman

orange and violet ground spider
found these spiders under a rock in our backyard never seen one before and can’t find anything online to identify them
Drew Audas
Wimberley, Tx (hill country)

Harvestman
Harvestman

Hi Drew,
This is some species of Harvestman in the order Opiliones.  Harvestmen are sometimes called Daddy Long Legs, and they are related distantly to spiders.

Letter 3 – Harvestman

Harvestman
Sun, Nov 16, 2008 at 3:58 AM
Hi, I was just reading about the Harvestman which Pauline found in the Falkland Islands. I found some in my garden in Stanley yesterday, they are quite abundant, and I know I have found them before, also on outer Islands I Have found them, and they seem to be widespread.

Also, there seem to be a couple of varieties, the back can be different, plain or fancy, the picture i have here you can see the pattern on the back of it. They look very similar to the ones found in Chile.

This is just a follow-up, I thought you might like to see it a little closer for identifying purposes.
Best Regards,
Zachary Stephenson.
Falkland Islands, Stanley

Harvestman from Falkland Islands
Harvestman from Falkland Islands

Dear Zachary,
Thanks for sending us your photos of this unusual-looking
Harvestman. It is much more frightening looking than the typical North American Daddy Long Legs. Whether they are scary-looking or not, Harvestman or Opiliones are harmless scavengers without venom.

Harvestman from Falkland Islands
Harvestman from Falkland Islands

Letter 4 – Harvestman

SO CALIFORNIAN SPIDER
May 2, 2010
We came across this spider, hiking Hollenbeck Canyon, in Jamul, CA. I have not seen it on any of the many hikes. Can you identify it? My husband, the Eagle Scout, claims it’s some sort of a stink-spider. I can’t find it in the photos, anywhere. … thanks!
Sharon
Jamul, CA

Harvestman with Mites

Hi Sharon,
This is not a spider, but rather, a member of the order Opiliones, known as Harvestmen or Daddy Long Legs.  We are intrigued by your husband’s name “Stink Spider” and we have our own recollection of Harvestmen releasing a foul odor.

 When we researched that idea, we found the CritterZone website which states:  “When disturbed, they emit a foul odor from their scent glands. To would-be predators, this is a clear warning that harvestmen taste terrible. ” 

Unlike spiders, Harvestmen do not have venom, and many species are scavengers that feed on dead invertebrates and decaying fruits and vegetables, though other species use their crushing mouthparts to feed on invertebrate prey. 

The red spots are Parasitic Mites, probably in the genus Leptus and according to BugGuide: “The larvae are generalist parasites of terrestrial arthropods. A number of species in this genus are described as parasites of North American harvestmen.”

Letter 5 – Harvestman

Unknown Spider?
Location: Piedmont region of north carolina, suburban cary
June 18, 2011, 12:08 pm
I found this digging up a boxwood bush in front of my house. The soil was a combination of soil with decaying leaves intermixed with areas of clay. The animal does not appear to have a distinct head but I do not have appropriate magnification.
Signature: Kimberlynn

Harvestman

Hi Kimberlynn,
Though it looks like a Spider, this is actually an arachnid from a different order, Opiliones, the group that contains Harvestmen, many of which are called Daddy Long Legs. 

We believe we have identified your individual as Vonones ornata based on images posted to BugGuide.  As you observed, BugGuide notes that Opiliones are: 

“Easily separated from spiders by the broad fusion of the two body segments, so that the body appears to be composed of a singular segment.”  Opiliones are not venomous.

Harvestman

Letter 6 – Harvestman

Very Odd Looking Spider?
Location: 214 Taylor Cheney Kansas 67025
July 1, 2011, 8:44 am
Found this bug in my yard crawling between the cement porch and a railroad tie. I think it’s a spider but not sure since most spiders I’ve seen have two main body parts..the head and abdomen..this thing looks like just a head with legs.


Thanks for your help and this cool website.
Signature: Chris Harris

Harvestman

Hi Chris,
This is a Harvestman or Daddy Long Legs in the order Opiniones.  We believe it is in the suborder Laniatores, and of all the images on BugGuide, your individual looks the most like this unidentified Harvestman from Oklahoma. 

Harvestmen are often confused with spiders and your observations are very acute.  Harvestmen do not have venom and they are considered to be scavengers more than predators.

Letter 7 – Harvestman

Subject: Funky Bug
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada United States
April 6, 2013 4:05 am
Hey, So my buddy found this bug on a wall at night while jogging in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 5, 2013. He said it was about 3-4” in diameter from leg to leg. A friend of HIS claims it’s a Harvestman Spider.

While I don’t agree (it has similar characteristics, but is different enough to convince me it’s some sort of beetle. Especially since it only has 6 legs), I also don’t have a better answer. Perhaps you can resolve this disagreement?
Signature: Alcanoya

Harvestman
Harvestman

Hi Alcanoya,
We agree with your buddy that this is a Harvestman in the order Opiliones, but we were not successful in finding a match on BugGuide.

Letter 8 – Harvestman

Subject: Long legged spider
Location: Plainview, Long Island, NY
August 28, 2015, 4:20 pm
I originally thought this spider was a daddy long legs variety but then thought otherwise based on the stance and body shape. I found it on my son’s swingset at 7 PM on August 28. We are in Plainview, Long Island, NY.

I assume it is nocturnal since it was not yet active even with my hand only a couple of inches over it. I saw no sign of a web. It appears to be missing one leg, presumably from a lost fight.
Signature: psinkiws

Harvestman
Harvestman

Dear psinkiws,
Daddy-Long-Legs and Harvestman are both common names for Arachnids in the order Opiliones, like your individual.

Letter 9 – Harvestman

Subject: Spider?
Location: North Texas
May 13, 2016 6:54 am
Hi,
I Found a spider today in the office.
We have a medium size lake right by us. We usually encounter all types of critters outside but in this case, this spider was just “Chill’n” on the wall.
The Spider’s body is about the size of a small raisin. Her head isn’t sticking out like most spiders.


This spider was located in Lancaster, Texas.
Signature: Mitzy Guerrero

Harvestman
Harvestman

Dear Mitzy,
Though it resembles a spider, this Arachnid is actually a harmless Harvestman in the order Opiliones.  Your individual resembles this BugGuide image that is identified as being in the genus
Eumesosoma

Letter 10 – Harvestman

Subject: Crazy looking tick/spider
Location: Southern Indiana
May 14, 2016, 7:34 pm
We were chopping wood earlier today and saw this bug on the bed of the truck. We live in southern Indiana. Thank you
Signature: Casey

Harvestman
Harvestman

Dear Casey,
This is a benign Harvestman in the order Opiliones, a group of Arachnids that is frequently mistaken for spiders.  Based on this BugGuide image, we are confident your individual is in the genus
Vonones.

Letter 11 – Harvestman

Subject:  Bug found walking under leaf litter
Geographic location of the bug:  South Carolina midlands
Date: 09/03/2017
Time: 02:57 PM EDT
I found this creature in late summer when clearing a thick layer of leaf litter off the ground. It was walking oddly (it’s back legs almost bent backward over its other legs?) and the color caught my eye.

I scooped it into a glass jar and took some pics but I can’t figure out what it is no matter how much time I spend googling. It was fascinating to watch and I’d love to know what to call this little dude.


How you want your letter signed —
Appreciative Novice

Harvestman

Dear Appreciative Novice,
This is a Harvestman in the Arachnid Order Opiliones.  Based on this BugGuide image, we are confident it is in the genus
Vonones, but we are uncertain of the species. 

Harvestmen are sometimes called Daddy-Long-Legs, and though they resemble Spiders, unlike Spiders they do not have venom, so they are harmless.

Harvestman

Letter 12 – Harvestman

Subject:  Unknown Harvestmen
Geographic location of the bug:  South Mississippi
Date: 05/25/2018
Time: 02:57 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi bugman,
I’m an environmental biology student from Mississippi who loves all things nature. As a hobby, I collect salvaged insects that die of natural causes, because I hate the thought of killing anything.

I was looking around in my garage when I discovered what I believe to be some sort of harvestmen entangled in a cobweb. At first glance, I thought it may just be the cephalothorax of a spider, but upon closer inspection, there are no broken-off attachment points where an additional abdomen would have been located. 

It was very dedicated when I found it, so several legs fell off upon retrieving it. I’ve done my best to glue them back in the correct position. It is a rusty orange color with a defined “Y”  behind its eyes in a cream color.

Its hindmost legs are attached directly to the rear of its abdomen. Its chelicerae also appear to have an underdeveloped claw-like appearance. It does not possess “fangs” as a spider would though.

I’ve never seen anything like this and it would be a huge help if you could help me identify it!
How you want your letter signed:  Jaden Hendrix

Harvestman

Hi Jaden,
We believe we have identified this Harvestman as a member of the genus
Vonones thanks to these BugGuide images.

Letter 13 – Harvestman

Subject:  Dalquestia formosa
The geographic location of the bug:  Johnson City, Texas
Date: 06/02/2021
Time: 08:30 AM EDT
Your letter to the Bugman:  Sharing a photo of a Dalquestia formosa harvestman for your photo library as a reference photo to help others with identification.
How you want your letter signed:  Regards, Mike

Harvestman

Dear Mike,
Thanks for thinking of our readership and our researchable archives by submitting your image of the Harvestman,
Dalquestia Formosa, a species we originally identified on BugGuide.

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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts

5 thoughts on “Are Daddy Long Legs Spiders? Debunking Myths and Facts”

  1. If you look closely and count , indeed there are eight legs (arachnida). In desert habitats common harvestmen genus often found is Eurybunus. This specimen appears possibly a Eurybunus sp. .

    Reply
  2. A friend of mine used to be the California state virologist. Besides coordinating research on pant pathogens, he was responsible for maintaining the state’s collection of arthropod specimens. Jaden’s post reminded me of my visit to the place. One of the cabinets in the repository was dedicated to harvestman. Looking through all those trays of pinned harvestmen you couldn’t help but wonder at the sheer amount of work it must have taken to somehow kelp all those fragile legs from falling off. Now there’s a job that could drive you nuts!

    Reply

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