Daddy Longleg: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

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

Species Overview

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.

Distinguishing Features

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:

Feature Daddy Longlegs Spiders
Body Segments Single, oval Two
Eyes One pair Multiple pairs
Venom Glands Absent Present
Silk Production Absent Present

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:

  • Harvestmen
  • Cellar Spiders
  • Crane Flies

Harvestmen

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.

Cellar Spiders

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.

Crane Flies

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?
Harvestmen Arachnid No No
Cellar Spiders Arachnid No* Yes
Crane Flies Insect No No

*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

Physical Characteristics

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)
Venomous No Yes
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).

Reproduction

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:

  • Insects
  • Spiders
  • Snails
  • 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:

  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Rodents

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
Daddy Longlegs Spiders
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

Pros:

  • Non-venomous and harmless to humans^[1^]
  • Feeds on dead organic matter and small insects, aiding in pest control

Cons:

  • 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

Feature Daddy Longlegs Spiders
Venomous No Varies
Silk Glands No Yes
Bite No Varies
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

Interesting Facts

  1. Body size and leg length

    • Males typically have smaller bodies but longer legs compared to females.
  2. Life Cycle and Molting

    • The molting process allows daddy longlegs to grow and shed their exoskeleton.
  3. Unique features

    • 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

Below is a comparison table of daddy longlegs and spiders:

Feature Daddy Longlegs Spiders
Venom Glands No Yes
Silk Glands No Yes
Eyes One pair Multiple
Leg Regrowth Yes No

Daddy Longlegs Habitat

Natural Environments

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.

Human-Influenced Habitats

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.

Geographical Distribution

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
Asia ✔️
Africa ✔️
North America ✔️
South America ✔️
Europe ✔️
Australia ✔️
Antarctica ❌ (too cold)

Despite their wide distribution, different species of Daddy Longlegs have unique habitat preferences, making them more common in specific regions.

Reader Emails

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

 

Stink Bug
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.
Photo Lady

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?
Signature: petie

Daddy Longlegs
Daddy Longlegs

Dear petie,
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.  

Rendering of a Harvestman
Rendering of a Harvestman

We just posted a really cute photo of Aayla with a Harvestman crawling on her face.

Letter 3 – Chilean Harvestman

 

strange spider from Chile
Hi,
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.
Gerhard Huedepohl

Hi Gerhard,
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!
Aaron Hilst

Hi Aaron,
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

Harvestman
Harvestman

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!
Signature: Misterknapp

Harvestman

Dear Misterknapp,
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
Hi there.
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.
Thanks
Signature: Dante Beyers

Harvestman, we believe
Mite

Dear Dante,
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.

Harvestman, we believe
Mite

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
Date: 08/14/2018
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

Harvestman: Dicranopalpus ramosus

Dear 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
Date: 01/16/2019
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

Tree Stump Spider

Dear 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
Dear bugman,
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.
Can you?
Thanks!
Saverio
PS: I have better quality files if needed.

Harvestman

Dear Saverio,
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.

Harvestman
Harvestman

Letter 11 – Unidentified Harvestman from Malaysia

 

Subject: Unknown Species of Harvestman
Location: Penang, Malaysia
November 11, 2016 10:05 pm
Hey Bugman,
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?
Thanks!
Signature: Jon

Unknown Harvestman
Unknown Harvestman

Dear Jon,
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.

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.

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24 thoughts on “Daddy Longleg: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell”

  1. Hi,its Wyatt again,my science teacher wants us to give a detailed description of the creature,its diet,its habitat,behavior,and some interesting facts. Do you think you could help?

    Reply
    • Wyatt,
      We will not do your homework. You can look at our postings and follow any links we have already provided on our website because we have already done considerable research with posted identification requests. You can begin by looking at all postings in our Opiliones (that is the order to which they belong) and Harvestmen category to learn some general information about Harvestmen.

      Reply
  2. Dear Petie – after finding my insect I came straight to the net to try and identify her and your drawing was the closest i came to finding her! body was was small and round like a smartie and those legs just went on forever!
    thank you for helping me to identify this gorgeous creature

    Reply
  3. Dear Petie – after finding my insect I came straight to the net to try and identify her and your drawing was the closest i came to finding her! body was was small and round like a smartie and those legs just went on forever!
    thank you for helping me to identify this gorgeous creature

    Reply
  4. Hi,
    I have also seen this spider and learned that this one is the man. The woman ist more round and with green stripes at its back. I also could provide a photo of the pair.

    Reply
  5. Hi,
    I have also seen this spider and learned that this one is the man. The woman ist more round and with green stripes at its back. I also could provide a photo of the pair.

    Reply
  6. This one is a Sadocus funestis. I found some of them on Oncol national Park also near Valdivia city.

    Reply

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