Daddy longlegs and brown recluse spiders are often confused due to their similar appearance. However, it’s essential to know the differences between these two creatures, as misconceptions about their danger to humans persist.
Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen or opilionids, differ from brown recluse spiders in several ways. They typically have one main body segment, at most two eyes, and long legs attaching to their pill-like bodies. They can be found under logs and rocks and tend to prefer moist habitats. On the other hand, brown recluse spiders have uniformly colored legs and abdomens, four pairs of eyes, and are known for their potentially harmful bites to humans.
These differences can help distinguish between the two for those concerned about the presence of brown recluse spiders in their environment. Despite the myths, daddy longlegs are not the most venomous spiders in the world and pose no significant threat to humans. So, understanding the key differences between these species is vital for safety and proper identification.
Daddy Long Legs and Brown Recluse: An Overview
Daddy long legs and brown recluse spiders are two distinct species with different characteristics. Let’s briefly examine their similarities and differences.
Daddy long legs, also known as harvestmen or opilionids, are arachnids but not true spiders. These creatures have:
- One basic body segment showing segmentation on the posterior portion
- At most, 2 eyes
- 8 legs attached to a pill-like body segment
- No silk or venom glands
You can usually find them in moist habitats, such as under logs and rocks1.
On the other hand, brown recluse spiders are indeed true spiders. They possess:
- A distinct violin-shaped mark on the cephalothorax
- 6 eyes arranged in pairs
- Venomous bites that can cause necrotic lesions, though fatalities are rare
- Silk-producing ability
These spiders prefer dark, sheltered areas, like attics, basements, and closets2.
To help illustrate their differences, here’s a comparison table:
|Daddy Long Legs
|One basic segment
|Two distinct segments
|At most 2 eyes
|6 eyes arranged in pairs
|No venom glands
|No silk glands
It’s essential to know these distinctions for proper identification and handling. If you come across a daddy long legs, there’s no need for concern since they’re harmless. Brown recluse spiders, however, warrant caution due to their venomous bites.
Physical Features and Appearance
Colors and Body Shape
- Body color: commonly gray, tan, or brown
- Body shape: pill-like segment, some segmentation on the posterior portion
- Body color: light brown to grayish
- Body shape: oval, distinctive dark violin-shaped marking on the cephalothorax
- Body size: 1/16-1/2 inch long
- Example: Female with larger body, male with longer legs
- Body size: legs extending over an area about the size of a quarter to a half-dollar
- Long, spindly legs
- Legs easily break off
- Slender legs
- Eyes: at most 2
- Located on the pill-like body segment
- Eyes: six eyes arranged in a semicircle
- Dark violin-shaped marking
|Gray, tan, or brown
|Light brown to grayish
|Oval, violin-shaped marking
|1/16-1/2 inch long
|Quarter to a half-dollar sized area
|Long, spindly, easily break off
|At most 2 eyes
|Six eyes, dark violin-shaped marking
Habitat and Behavior
Webs and Living Spaces
- Do not produce silk or create webs
- Live in a variety of habitats, such as forests, grasslands, and gardens
- Create irregular, small webs in hidden, protected spaces
- Prefer dark, secluded environments like attics, basements, and closets
|Forests, grasslands, gardens
|Dark, secluded spaces
Hunting and Feeding Patterns
- Opportunistic feeders
- Consume a range of food types, including insects, dead animals, and plants
- Ambush predators, known to hunt actively at night
- Primarily eat insects and other arthropods
Example of prey for both species:
- Insects like ants, flies, and mites
In conclusion, daddy longlegs and brown recluse spiders have distinct differences in their habitat and behavior. Daddy longlegs do not create webs and live in a variety of environments, while brown recluse spiders prefer dark, secluded spaces. In terms of their feeding patterns, daddy longlegs are opportunistic feeders, while brown recluse spiders are ambush predators that primarily prey on insects.
Venom and Bites
Severity and Symptoms
Daddy Longlegs (Cellar Spiders):
- Their venom is weak
- Harmless to humans
- Venom is more toxic
- Potentially dangerous for humans
Symptoms of Brown Recluse bites:
- Redness and swelling
- Severe pain
- Fever, chills, and headache
First Aid and Medical Attention
Daddy Longlegs (Cellar Spiders):
- No specific first aid needed
- Bites are rare and harmless
- Clean the bite with soap and water
- Apply ice to reduce swelling
- Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen
|Daddy Longlegs (Cellar Spiders)
|Possible severe symptoms
|No specific first aid required
|First aid and potential medical attention
In summary, the venom of daddy longlegs (cellar spiders) is weak, and their bites are harmless to humans. In contrast, brown recluse spiders have more toxic venom, and their bites can cause severe symptoms that may require medical attention.
Comparison of Spider Species
Daddy Longlegs (Pholcidae)
- Also known as cellar spiders
- Two body segments, eight eyes, and fangs with venom ducts and glands 1
- Long, thin legs that give them their name
Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa)
- Uniformly colored, ranging from light to dark brown 3
- Dark violin-shaped mark on back4
- Long and thin legs without conspicuous spines4
Range and Distribution
|Mainly southeastern USA5
|Dark, damp areas
|Hidden spaces, debris
- Found all around the world, with different species occurring in different regions
- Commonly found in dark, damp areas such as basements and cellars1
- Mainly found in the southeastern United States
- Areas include Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, extending east to parts of Pennsylvania5
- Hide in undisturbed spaces, like boxes, piles of debris, or seldom-used clothing 6
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Harvestman from the UK
Subject: Spider with pincers and strange legs
Location: Somerset, south-west UK, bathroom ceiling
August 18, 2014 9:36 am
Hi I found this on the ceiling of our bathroom, in UK in the summer. Strange flat legs out to the sides and what look like pincers at the front. Is it a harvestman too?! Someone suggested a kind of tick!
Signature: Freya Morgan
You are correct that this is a Harvestman. More specifically, it is Dicranopalpus ramosus, an invasive species that NatureSpot has identified as being: “Now quite frequent in Britain” and “The species has spread across Europe from Morocco. As early as 1957, it was reported in Bournemouth in southern England, from where it spread. It reached Scotland in 2000.” We have always been amused by the uneven legs, and the shape of this Harvestman reminds us of architectural dingbats from mid-century modern Los Angeles apartment buildings and starburst home furnishings from the same time period.
Letter 2 – Harvestman with Parasitic Mites
Spider carrying orange orbs
Sun, Oct 12, 2008 at 6:53 AM
I found this spider while digging a trench in my lawn in April, 2008. There was no web in sight. The spider seemed to be just walking along. My first thought was that it was carrying it’s eggs somewhere. I took a few pictures, then continued with my trench. After a few days, I began to wonder exactly what kind of spider it was and what it was doing, but haven’t been able to find out any more information. Thanks for your help.
Coastal southern California
Your spider is actually another type of Arachnid in the order Opiliones, commonly called a Harvestman or Daddy-Long-Legs. The orange orbs appear to be Parasitic Mites in the genus Leptus. We originally thought the Mites were merely hitching a ride, a phenomenon known as Phoresy, but a search of BugGuide revealed the parasitic nature of the Mites. There is some good dialog contributed by the BugGuide readership on the genus Leptus.
Letter 3 – Harvestman from South Africa is Rhampsinitus species
Subject: South African Spider Identification
Location: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
January 8, 2014 5:56 am
A friend recently snapped a photo of this spider in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Any idea what species this is?
Though it resembles a Spider and it is also classified as an Arachnid along with Spiders, Ticks and Scorpions, this Harvestman belongs to the order Opiliones. Unlike Spiders and Scorpions, Opiliones do not have venom. Biodiversity Explorer indicates they are also called Shepherd Spiders in South Africa, and though there are some images, none of the examples resemble your particular Harvestman. There are several images of similar looking Harvestmen from Australia pictured on the Catalogue of Organisms website, and the Catalogue of Organisms posting for February 5, 2013 has a nice image of an Opiliones from New Zealand that looks very similar to your individual. Determining the species would probably require examination of the specimen by a specialist.
Update: Rhampsinitus species
Christopher Taylor who writes the Catalog of Organisms blog was kind enough to identify this Harvestman to the genus level of Rhampsinitus.
Thanks, Daniel! I know you’re probably quite busy, so your reply is greatly appreciated.
Letter 4 – Harvestman: Dalquestia formosa
Subject: Unknown Insect
Geographic location of the bug: Texas Hill Country
Time: 08:06 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello, I was outside when I saw a cool looking insect, so I took a few pictures of it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it on any website, and was hoping you could help. It had an armored body, like a pill bug, and had a white dot on the end of its abdomen. It’s legs had white, orange and black stripes on it. It was about the size of a nickel. Below are some pictures of said insect.
How you want your letter signed: Thank you
This distinctively colorful creature is not an insect. It is a Harvestman in the order Opiliones, a group sometimes called Daddy-Long-Legs. They are frequently confused with Spiders, but unlike Spiders, they do not have venom. We quickly located your colorful Harvestman on BugGuide where it is identified as Dalquestia formosa. The habitat, according to BugGuide, is “Rocky woodlands – e.g., rocky juniper woodlands in TX.” This represents a new species for our site and we are very excited to post it.
Letter 5 – Harvestman from Scotland
Long legged spider / insect ???
Fri, Nov 21, 2008 at 5:27 AM
This creature is currently basking in the sun on the front of my new house wall. Location is central Scotland. Its legs are very long and almost create a fan shape. Its body is oval with a bit of hight to it and its legs resemble spider esk shape. We have fir trees at the back of the garden and I thought it might have come from there. I would really love to know what it is and if im likely to see more of them in the future.
Dear Mrs Brind,
We searched through 19 pages of images of Harvestmen in the order Opiliones in the hope of finding an example of an individual positioned like yours, but we were not successful. Harvestmen are related to spiders, but do not possess venom. They are harmless scavengers that are sometimes called Daddy Long Legs.
Hi Bugman and Mrs. Brind:
This looks like Dicranopalpus ramosus. Although harvestmen are quite harmless in a direct sense (to humans), this is apparently an exotic or ‘invasive’ species in Europe, so there may be some ecological implications. Apparently it originated in North Africa and has been spreading northward for some time, finally reaching Scotland in 2000. Because in is an invasive species there are quite a number of articles and photos on the internet. Wikipedia offers a brief summary at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dicranopalpus_ramosus Regards.
We were unable to open the Wikipedia page you cited, but we did find another website with good images of Dicranopalpus ramosus and we found a posting entitled UK Alien Invasion on the UK Independant website. Gradual species expansion like this is an often overlooked symptom of Global Warming.
Letter 6 – Harvestman, Molting? or attacked by Fungus?
Wings or no?
June 2, 2009
I came across this guy in my kitchen and immediately snapped a picture of it. I then got it in a jar and released it outdoors. The wing-like tentacles on its back moved around almost like an octopus. I’ve never seen an insect like this.
Western NC USA
Dear Curious Dude,
Those are not wings, and this is a Harvestman in the order Opiliones, but we need to seek advice on what is actually happening in this photo. We believe you have photographed the molting process, but we need confirmation on that. Harvestmen are sometimes called Daddy Long Legs.
Update from Eric Eaton
The harvestman looks like it has succumbed to a fungal attack.
Letter 7 – Harvestman from Slovenia
Strange looking creature
Location: Slovenia, Central Europe
May 8, 2011 5:30 pm
I had this interesting looking bug wander into my house the other night. It was about 1-1.5cm big and sort of clumsily moving. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’d really like to have it identified. The pictures aren’t really the best quality because it kept moving around but hopefully they will suffice. Thank you!
This unusual Arachnid is one of the Harvestmen in the order Opiliones. A few months ago, we needed assistance from some experts to identify similar looking Harvestmen from Crete as members of the family Trogiuidae.
Letter 8 – Harvestman from the Falkland Islands
I found this in my garden, I live in the Falkland Islands, South Atlantic and these have not been seen before. There was 2 of them under a piece of wood (dry) which was at the bottom of a pile. The rear is the two hairy looking legs. It is dark and reddish brown in color. The body is about the size of a dime, 4 front legs. No wings. The other one was quite a bit smaller. Thanks for your help,
This is a Harvestman in the order Opiliones. We recently got an email from someone more familiar with this order, and we will contact Rod Crawford to see if he can confirm or deny or provide any additional information.
There are only 2 harvestmen recorded from the Falkland Islands: Haversia defensa (Butler) and Hoggellula vallentini (Hogg) both in the family Gonyleptidae. Your photo does indeed look like a gonyleptid but is not high-res enough to have any diagnostic features. I have on hand a drawing of H. defensa showing the hind legs less stout than in the photo, so by elimination it might be considered to be H. vallentini (of which I can find no illustration without making a special trip to the library) – but I don’t really stand by the accuracy of ID by elimination! from your friendly neighborhood harvestmanman,
Rod Crawford, Burke Museum, Seattle, USA
Letter 9 – Harvestman from the UK
Subject: what are these?
Location: garden in England
July 23, 2012 8:49 am
Hi I have seen loads and loads me these in my garden (England). Sometimes there’s one on its own other times there are groups. Just wanted to know what they are and to make sure they are not harmful to children, I’ve just never seen these before. Thanks.
This is a Harvestman in the Arachnid order Opiliones, and though it does not resemble the examples posted on the British Arachnological Society page, we are relatively certain of our identification. The British Arachnological Society website states: “Harvestmen will eat all kinds of food. Their omnivorous habits mean they will eat dead squashed slugs, bird droppings, jam, fruit and other plant remains, as well as live small invertebrates that they might catch. Generally they are nocturnal and can be found hiding under ivy, amongst grass stems, and other vegetation, under stones, bark and logs and inside cool damp buildings like sheds and outside toilets. Their common name derives from the fact that most are mature in autumn, at the time of harvesting.” Harvestmen are harmless since they have no venom and do not bite. We continued to research and we believe we have correctly identified your species as Homalenotus quadridentatus on the Opiliones UK website, but you must scroll down to see the image.
Letter 10 – Harvestman from the UK
Subject: Strange insect
Location: Kent, UK
October 29, 2016 4:45 am
I found this on a brick wall in Kent, UK, end of October.
I have never seen anything like it before, are you able to identify it?
This is not an insect. This Harvestman is an Arachnid in the order Opiliones. Sometimes called Daddy-Long-Legs, they are often confused with Spiders, but unlike Spiders they do not have venom. They are considered harmless.
Thanks for the info!
Letter 11 – Harvestman from UK
Subject: I haven’t seen anything like this
Location: Oxfordshire, UK
November 15, 2012 8:50 am
Hello. This ”thing” has been living on my outside fence for a few months. I am baffled to what it is.
Signature: Emma Venvell
This is a Harvestman in the order Opiliones. They are sometimes called Daddy-Long-Legs and they are often confused with spiders. Unlike spiders, they do not have venom. Your individual appears to be missing several legs.
Karl provides a species identification.
It’s a very distinctive looking spider and I wonder if it isn’t another Dicranopalpus ramosus, like the one posted on WTB in 2008 by Mrs. Brind of Scotland. If so, it is an exotic species that is well out of its natural range. Regards. Karl
Letter 12 – Harvestman in the Andean Snow
Mountain Climbing Bug? From Andes..
Location: Andes Mountains
July 22, 2011 6:49 am
Dear Awesome BugMan,
Love the site! I’ve guided trips coast-to-coast, and have seen many cool bugs I couldn’t identify. Thanks!
This bug is from 14,500 feet up in the Andes Mountains, taken in early July.
It has oversized back legs like a grasshopper with large hooks. It is about a 2cm long.
Michael Brown, who runs the Outside Adventure film school, was leading a trip and found it.
Signature: Kaki Flynn
We are finally ready to go live with your posting. Thanks so much for indulging us offline, and first sending a larger resolution image that we requested, and then resending your original written request which got separated from the image. Once we got the higher resolution image, we determined that based on the number of legs and other anatomical features, that this creature is a member of the order Opiliones, a group of Arachnids that are commonly called Harvestmen or Daddy Long Legs. Last year, we received this image of an Opiliones from Chile that somewhat resembles your individual, but that species is found near the beaches, and your specimen is far from the ocean at a very high altitude. We did a web search of Opiliones and snow and we found this Snow Creatures webpage that has a gallery of images of insects found in the snow, and it includes a single photo of an Opiliones on page 3, but it looks nothing like your individual. Continued searching led us to a BioOne website of online journals including one entitled On the Occurrence of Epizoic Cyanobacteria and Liverworts on a Neotropical Harvestman (Arachnida: Opiliones)1. By scrolling to the end of the journal article, there are several images that you can enlarge of Opiliones from Brazil in the genus Neosadocus. Structurally, they look even more like your individual. While we have been unable to locate anything specific on Opiliones found at high altitudes in the Andes, we are confident that we have the order Opiliones correct. For some interesting general information on Harvestmen, you can read the Opliones in the UK and Continental Europe web page. There are so few insects and arachnids that are active in the snow, this was a very exciting posting for us to work on. Again, thanks for indulging us and resending the information and images we requested. We do have a final request. Can you please provide the country where the sighting occurred. We guessed at Peru, but we are not certain.
Letter 13 – Harvestman from Uruguay is Paramphere bimaculatus
Subject: Harvestman in Uruguay
Location: Salinas, Uruguay
January 23, 2014 2:19 pm
I think this a Harvestman. I can’t find a picture quite like it. The two yellow dots on the triangle shaped body. It was dying when I took this photo so it is not standing up to give an accurate picture. The back legs are longer with little spikes on them. We live out in the country outside of Montevideo, Uruguay.
You are correct that this is a Harvestman in the order Opiliones. Rod Crawford of the Burke Museum assisted in a species identification of a Harvestman from the Falkland Islands, and we will attempt to contact him to see if he can provide any additional information.
It resembles a gonyleptid, but the man you really want for this is Adriano Kury who is really The Man on South American harvestmen, especially of this group.
Rod Crawford, Burke Museum, Seattle, USA
Dear Adriano Kury,
Rob Crawford suggested I contact you regarding this Opiliones sighting nearby Montevideo, Uruguay.
You can also see the link here: 2014/01/24/harvestman-uruguay/
Thanks for any information you are able to provide.
What’s That Bug?
Great, thank you. I found a second one dead yesterday. If I find a good, live one, I will try to get a picture of it “looking its best” to send to you for your collection!
Adriano Kury Responds
Gonyleptinae – a male of Parampheres sp.
I don’t know which species, genus has not been revised, but there are not many species.
I believe a student of Ricardo is studying this animal, you might check with him.
** PROF. DR. ADRIANO BRILHANTE KURY **
Dept. Invertebrados — Lab. Aracnologia
Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro – RJ – BRAZIL
Estimado Daniel, El opilion es un Paramphere bimaculatus.
Letter 14 – Harvestman from Uruguay
Subject: Harvestman in Uruguay
Location: Salinas, Uruguay
February 6, 2014
I have a great picture of one that is not dying. Looks gorgeous! For your website!
Thank you for supplying our site with this photo of a healthy Harvestman, Paramphere bimaculatus, as a followup to your original submission.
Absolutely. It helps to have a “good” picture for others to identify. It is a beauty. Great pic.
Thank you for all your work. I am enjoying your website. I never thought I would have an interest in bugs but we have so many here in Uruguay. We just moved here from the US so these bugs are new to me. What is funny, is the people that live here never noticed many of them and are unaware of their own bugs! It sometimes takes new eyes to see things around us.
Take care and thanks again.
Letter 15 – Harvestman, we think
Small black spider, huge pedipalps
January 19, 2010
Hello. I’ve been going crazy trying to figure out what type of spider this is. I’ve seen two inside my house and one outside. Most notable are the pedipalps (at least I think they’re pedipalps — I’m no expert) that are actually longer than the rest of the spider’s body. Also, it walked very robotically and slow instead of the typical spider “scurry.” It had four pairs of legs.
I wish my photos were better. Both spiders I was able to photograph were already dead. The first photo is a profile view of the spider. The last one is a top view. Thanks for your time.
Cascade foothills of Washington State
We have had a few misidentifications in the past few days, so the possibility exists that we may not be correct. We don’t believe this is a spider, but rather a Harvestman in the suborder Laniatores. There are some photos on BugGuide that look similar, but alas, your photos don’t show some of the details we would like to see.
Thanks so much for responding — and so quickly at that! After some internet research, I suspected it was some kind of huntsman. I just got a sweet new camera, so if I see another and can get quality photos, I’ll be sure to submit them.
What’s also interesting is that I’ve seen two tiny pseudoscorpions in my bathroom.
January 21, 2010
I was looking at the pictures of the arachnid in the “Huntsman, we think” posting and to me it looks a bit more like a whip scorpion or tailless whip scorpion than a huntsman. This could explain the huge pedipalps.