Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen, are fascinating creatures often mistaken for spiders. However, they belong to a separate order of arachnids called Opiliones. These critters can be easily distinguished by their oval bodies, where the head and abdomen segments appear fused, and their extraordinarily long, wiggly legs.
Not only do they lack silk glands, but daddy longlegs are also not venomous. They have some unique features that set them apart from their spider cousins. For example, these creatures possess only two eyes and are known for their ability to detach a leg when threatened by predators, similar to how lizards can break off part of their tails.
Increasing your knowledge about daddy longlegs can help you appreciate their role in nature and dispel common misconceptions. Do not confuse them with cellar spiders, another type of arachnid known as “daddy longlegs.” Understanding the characteristics and habits of these arachnids can not only satisfy your curiosity but also contribute to better informed and responsible encounters with wildlife.
Daddy Longlegs Identification
Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen or cellar spiders, are arachnids, but not true spiders. They belong to the order Opiliones and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
Daddy longlegs are easily recognized by their:
- Long, slender legs
- Small, oval-shaped body
- Ability to lose a leg when attacked by a predator
Although they resemble spiders, daddy longlegs have some key differences:
|Body Segments||Single, oval||Two|
|Eyes||One pair||Multiple pairs|
Every Continent Except Antarctica
Daddy longlegs are remarkably adaptable arachnids and can be found on all continents except for Antarctica. They thrive in various habitats, including forests, grasslands, and even urban environments. This wide distribution demonstrates their adaptability and resilience in various conditions.
Daddy Longlegs Classification
Three Main Types
Daddy Longlegs are commonly mistaken as spiders but actually refer to a variety of arachnids and insects. Here are the three main types:
- Cellar Spiders
- Crane Flies
Also known as Opilionids, these arachnids belong to the order Opiliones. Key characteristics include:
- Round or oval body
- Long, thin legs
- One pair of eyes
Although related, harvestmen differ from spiders as they have fused body sections and do not produce silk. They are harmless to humans, feeding primarily on decomposing vegetation and small insects.
These creatures are also called daddy longlegs spiders, belonging to the family Pholcidae. Distinct features are:
- Small body with distinct head and abdomen
- Extremely long, thin legs
- Known for making messy webs
Contrary to popular myth, they are not venomous to humans and help control populations of other insects in homes.
Although not actual spiders or arachnids, crane flies are sometimes confused with daddy longlegs, due to their long legs. Details about crane flies include:
- Insect belonging to the family Tipulidae
- Resemble oversized mosquitoes
- Harmless to people, no biting or stinging
Here’s a comparison table to better understand these three types:
|Type||Arachnid/Insect||Venomous?||Can Produce Silk?|
*Note: Cellar spider venom is not harmful to humans.
In summary, each type of daddy longlegs has unique characteristics and plays a role in controlling pests in the ecosystem. By understanding their differences, we can better appreciate these fascinating creatures.
Daddy Longlegs Biology
Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen, have an oval-shaped body with long legs. The body size ranges from about 1/16 to 1/2 inch long, and males typically have smaller bodies but longer legs than females (source). Some key features include:
- One pair of eyes
- Simple oval body
These creatures are often confused with cellar spiders, but there are some distinctions:
|Misconceptions:||Daddy Longlegs (Harvestman)||Cellar Spider|
|Arachnid family||Opiliones||Araneae (Spiders)|
|Produce silk for webs||No||Yes|
Venom and Fangs
Contrary to popular belief, daddy longlegs are not venomous, nor do they possess fangs. This misconception is often due to confusion with cellar spiders that do have venom (source).
The mating process in daddy longlegs can begin with an elaborate courtship dance performed by the male. The female then lays eggs, typically during the fall season, which hatch into youngsters after a period of time.
Daddy Longlegs Behavior
Prey and Feeding Habits
Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen, are omnivorous creatures that eat a variety of prey:
- Dead organisms
They often hunt in various habitats, such as gardens, grasslands, and under rocks. Interestingly, these arachnids use their long legs to sense vibrations from nearby prey.
Predators and Threats
The predators of daddy longlegs include:
To defend themselves, they can easily break off their legs, similar to the tail autotomy of lizards. Another interesting tactic is releasing an unpleasant odor to deter potential threats.
Mating and Courtship
Daddy longlegs exhibit a fascinating courtship process:
- Male initiates contact with female, using its legs to send signals
- Exchange of vibrations between the male and female
- Male deposits a spermatophore, which the female retrieves to complete fertilization
|Fused body||Separate cephalothorax and abdomen|
|No silk glands||Can spin silk webs|
|No venom glands||Possess venom glands|
In conclusion, daddy longlegs are fascinating arachnids with unique behaviors, from their feeding habits to their defense strategies and their way of mating. These creatures are an integral part of various ecosystems and are often overlooked or misunderstood by people.
Daddy Longlegs and Human Interaction
Do They Bite?
Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen, are often misunderstood arachnids. Despite popular belief, they are not venomous and do not bite humans as a form of attack or defense. In fact, they lack venom glands altogether, eliminating the possibility of a harmful bite to humans or other creatures^[1^].
Infestations and Pest Control
Daddy longlegs may be found in damp, dark areas such as basements or crawlspaces^[2^]. Though their presence can be uncomfortable for some, they aren’t considered dangerous pests. However, if you wish to remove them, using a broom or vacuum can quickly and harmlessly remove individual daddy longlegs. In more serious cases, contacting a pest control professional can help address infestation problems.
Coexisting with Daddy Longlegs
Rather than viewing daddy longlegs as nuisances, consider their benefits. They primarily feed on dead organic matter and small insects, resulting in a cleaner home environment. Coexisting can be simple as they pose no threat to humans and even play a crucial role in controlling other insects.
Pros and Cons of Daddy Longlegs in Your Home
- Non-venomous and harmless to humans^[1^]
- Feeds on dead organic matter and small insects, aiding in pest control
- May cause discomfort due to misconceptions about their nature
- Can be seen as unpleasant in a living space, especially in large numbers
Comparison Table: Daddy Longlegs vs. Spiders
|Benefits/Pests||Cleanup, pest control||Varies, can be beneficial or harmful|
Daddy Longlegs Facts and Myths
Debunking Common Misconceptions
- Myth: Daddy longlegs are venomous
- In reality, daddy longlegs are not venomous and they do not have venom glands.
- Myth: Daddy longlegs are spiders
- They are actually closer to scorpions and lack silk-producing glands.
Body size and leg length
- Males typically have smaller bodies but longer legs compared to females.
Life Cycle and Molting
- The molting process allows daddy longlegs to grow and shed their exoskeleton.
- Daddy longlegs have some distinct characteristics:
- One pair of eyes
- No silk glands or venom glands
- Ability to break off their legs to escape predators
- Daddy longlegs have some distinct characteristics:
Below is a comparison table of daddy longlegs and spiders:
Daddy Longlegs Habitat
Daddy Longlegs, also known as harvestmen, can be found in various natural environments, such as:
- Grass: These creatures are commonly spotted in grasslands and meadows.
- Leaf litter: They thrive in areas with abundant decaying leaves and other organic matter.
- Rock: Rocky terrain with crevices provides them with ideal shelter.
Humid areas are particularly well-suited for Daddy Longlegs, as high moisture levels help them stay hydrated.
Daddy Longlegs often coexist with humans, occupying spaces such as:
- Gardens: These creatures enjoy garden environments, where they can find ample shelter and food.
- Homes: They are frequently seen in and around human dwellings, especially in basements, attics, and cellars.
Daddy Longlegs can be found on every continent, indicating their adaptability to various environments. Here’s a comparison table of their distribution:
|Continent||Presence of Daddy Longlegs|
|Antarctica||❌ (too cold)|
Despite their wide distribution, different species of Daddy Longlegs have unique habitat preferences, making them more common in specific regions.
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 – Predatory Stink Bug eats Daddy Long Legs
I was surprised when I saw on your site that stink bugs primarily eat plants as this one seems to be enjoying a supplemental diet item. I found this pair in August in Central New York State.
Hi again Photo Lady,
What an awesome photo of a Predatory Stink Bug enjoying a Daddy Long Legs meal. It took us a bit of research, but we believe this Stink Bug is in the genus Podisus based on images found on BugGuide.
Letter 2 – Opiliones or Daddy Longlegs
Subject: ok!! I found her-spider
Location: livingston texas
May 25, 2013 8:39 pm
A pea sized red body with legs forever. Delicate, spindly, easy three inches out from her body. I’m so sorry I cannot find her anymore for a picture. You do, of course, have my permission to publish my artwork but I most certainly will sue if I catch you smiling or falling out of your chairs laughing. I think there is too much activity on the porch now. It was all hers for 2 years.
Why is it always 8? Is that a leg thing?
Though your drawing isn’t anatomically accurate, it is an excellent rendering of a Harvestman in the order Opiliones. Before we enlarged the images, we saw a thumbnail of the drawing and we knew immediately what you had seen. Like Spiders, Opiliones are classed as Arachnids, but they are in different orders. We were unable to verify the species you submitted, not even to the family level. See BugGuide for more information on Opiliones.
We just posted a really cute photo of Aayla with a Harvestman crawling on her face.
Letter 3 – Chilean Harvestman
strange spider from Chile
I found this strange animal in the temperate rainforest of southern Chile near the city of Valdivia. Thank you very much for helping to identify this interesting creature.
This is not a spider, but a relative known as a Harvestman in the order Opiliones. Two years ago this month, we received a another quite similar image, also from Chile, and Eric Eaton provided this information: ” The Chilean “spider” is actually a tropical harvestman (order Opilones), possibly in the suborder Laniatores, and, even more remotely plausible, in the family Gonyleptidae. I got all this from my old Golden Guide to “Spiders and Their Kin” by Levi and Zim:-) Eric” Many Opiliones are known as Daddy Long Legs and they do not posess venom, hence they are harmless.
Letter 4 – Chilean Harvestman
chilean spider (?)
Hi Bug Folk,
My girlfriend and I were recently in Chile and saw a number of these spider-like creatures near where we were staying. They only came out at night and moved rather slowly…quite and interesting creature. Anyhow, if you know what it may be, let me know. Thanks for all your buggy wisdom!
Well, it has 8 legs and no antennae, so that implies spider, but we have never seen anything like it before. We will post the image and perhaps eventually get an answer. Eric Eaton wrote in with this identification: ” The Chilean “spider” is actually a tropical harvestman (order Opilones), possibly in the suborder Laniatores, and, even more remotely plausible, in the family Gonyleptidae. I got all this from my old Golden Guide to “Spiders and Their Kin” by Levi and Zim:-) Eric”
Letter 5 – Harvestman from Chile
Subject: Prehistoric looking spider
Location: Santiago, Chile
April 28, 2016 5:35 am
Dear bugman: I found this in my house… Is it a harvestman spider?
Signature: Freaked mom
Dear Freaked Mom,
This is a harmless Harvestman in the order Opiliones. They are not venomous.
Letter 6 – Harvestman from Chile
Subject: Photographs of
Location: Ancud, Isla de Chiloé, Los Lagos, Chile
February 4, 2017 12:04 pm
Hi there! I just wanted to know if I could share some of my photography of some beautiful insects which I have been lucky enough to capture. Anyhow, I am sending a few shots because there is the option to do so. Thanks and regards!
We are going to deal with your identification request one image at a time. The creature that looks like a Spider is a Harvestman in the order Opiliones, not too dissimilar looking than this other Harvestman from Chile in our archives. We located an image of a Sadocus species from Chile on the Classification of Opiliones site, and that image is also posted to FlickR.
Letter 7 – Mite from South Africa: Eatoniana plumipes
Subject: Is this a Spider?
Location: Uniondale, South Africa
January 12, 2016 12:54 am
I saw this little guy just outside Uniondale, South Africa.
He was running quite fast and taking a picture was a difficult task.
As you can see from one of the pictures it isn’t a very big insect.
It has 8 legs and the back legs each had a hairy puffy section on it and what looked like “feather-like” fan right at the end of it.
When my friend picked it up the wind actually swept it away quite easliy so maybe that is the function of the back legs looking like that.
I hope you can help me in identifying it.
Signature: Dante Beyers
This is not a spider, and we believe because of the structure of the body, that it is a Harvestman in the order Opiliones, but try as we might, we cannot find any matching images online that include tufted back legs. Even iSpot does not have any similar looking Harvestmen. Perhaps one of our readers will assist us in finding a matching image.
Correction: Mite not a Harvestman
Thanks to Christopher who provided a link to a Turkish posting of a Mite, Eatoniana plumipes, we have to retract our original guess. The Ohio State University site does place the species in South Africa.
Letter 8 – Non-Native Harvestman from Wales
Subject: Unidentified insect
Geographic location of the bug: Wales LL38 2PX
Time: 04:01 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Is this a huntsman? It was in my tissue box one morning .
How you want your letter signed: L.morton
This is not a spider. It is a Harvestman, Dicranopalpus ramosus, in the order Opiliones, and it is an introduced species in the U.K. According to NatureSpot: “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.” This might be a symptom of global warming.
Letter 9 – Tree Stump Spider from The Philippines
Subject: what is this spider?
Geographic location of the bug: mindanao, philippines
Time: 07:31 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: hi.. my daughter found this kind of spider which becomes her pet but we cant identify what kind of spidrr is this..hope you can help us..thanks..
How you want your letter signed: Jean
In our opinion, this is not a Spider, but rather a Harvestman, a group of Arachnids in the order Opiliones. Harvestmen do not have venom, so they are not a threat to humans. Alas, we have not been able to find any matching images online, so we cannot verify the species identity of your Harvestman.
Update: Thanks to a comment from Christoper, who provided a link to Flying Kiwi, we now believe this IS a Spider, possibly a species of Orbweaver.
Update: February 3, 3019
Thanks to a comment from frequent contributor Karl with links, we now believe we have a species identification for this Tree Stump Spider, Poltys illepidus. Here is an image from Life Unseen.
Letter 10 – Three Harvestmen from Italy
Subject: Summer Spiders from the Italian Mountains
Location: Dolomites Mountains, Italy
August 24, 2017 1:06 PM
I just came back from a trip to the Dolomites mountains in northern Italy. I had many encounters with spiders. I took a picture of some of them, hoping that you could help me identifying them.
PS: I have better quality files if needed.
Though they resemble Spiders, most of your images are actually Harvestmen or Daddy-Long-Legs in the order Opiliones. Unlike Spiders, they do not have venom. It appears you have three different species represented.
Letter 11 – Unidentified Harvestman from Malaysia
Subject: Unknown Species of Harvestman
Location: Penang, Malaysia
November 11, 2016 10:05 pm
I flipped a rock and found this harvestman but I can’t seem to find any pictures that exactly match this species. Can you identify it?
Though we successfully identified your previously submitted Harvestman, we could not find any matching images of this individual on Classification of Opiliones or elsewhere on the internet in our initial searches.