Do Daddy Long Legs Eat Other Spiders? Find Out the Surprising Truth!

folder_openArachnida, Opiliones
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Daddy long legs, also known as harvestmen, are often mistaken for spiders due to their appearance. However, they are actually part of the arachnid family but closer to scorpions than spiders 1. These fascinating creatures have generated curiosity about their habits and whether or not they eat other spiders.

One key difference between daddy long legs and spiders is that they don’t produce silk or possess venom glands 2. They primarily rely on their long legs and a pungent odor to deter predators while seeking prey. In their diet, daddy long legs consume a variety of small insects and plant material 3.

The question remains: do daddy long legs eat other spiders? While it is not their preferred food source, they may occasionally prey on spiders if they come across them during their hunting expeditions. However, this is more of an opportunistic behavior rather than a central part of their diet.

Daddy Long Legs Overview

Physical Characteristics

Daddy long legs are arachnids with notably long legs, giving them their name. These creatures have a simple oval body and it’s usually difficult to discern where the “head” ends and the “abdomen” begins. Typically, males have smaller bodies and longer legs compared to females, and their legs easily break off as a defense mechanism against predators (source).

Here are some key physical features of daddy long legs:

  • Very long legs
  • Oval body shape
  • Smaller bodies in males, longer legs

Species and Classification

There are two main groups often referred to as daddy long legs: harvestmen and cellar spiders.

Harvestmen (Order Opiliones):
These arachnids are more closely related to scorpions than spiders. They lack silk and venom glands, have only two eyes, and are not venomous (source).

Key characteristics of harvestmen:

  • Lack silk and venom glands
  • Two eyes

Cellar Spiders (Family Pholcidae):
These are the true spiders commonly known as daddy long legs. They have two body segments, eight eyes, and fangs equipped with venom ducts and glands (source).

Key characteristics of cellar spiders:

  • Two body segments
  • Eight eyes
  • Venomous fangs

Comparison Table:

Feature Harvestmen Cellar Spiders
Common Name Daddy Long Legs Daddy Long Legs
Classification Order Opiliones Family Pholcidae
Silk Production No Yes
Venom Glands No Yes
Eye Count 2 8

Dispelling the Myths

Venomous or Harmless?

One common myth about daddy long legs is that they are the most venomous spiders in the world. However, the term “daddy longlegs” is used colloquially to refer to at least three different animals, only one of which is a true spider: the cellar spider from the family Pholcidae1. Daddy longlegs spiders do have venom glands, but their venom is relatively weak2. In reality, they are harmless to humans as their fangs are usually too small to penetrate human skin.

Comparison between Daddy longlegs spiders and other spiders:

Feature Daddy longlegs spiders Other spiders
Venomous Weak venom Varies
Fang size Small Varies
Dangerous to humans No Varies

Long Legged Predators

Daddy long legs, despite their seemingly fragile appearance, are known to prey on other spiders and insects. The cellar spider, for instance, is a true spider that is known for its ability to catch and consume other spiders in its web1. In fact, these spiders have been documented killing and eating more dangerous spiders such as black widows3.

Characteristics of Daddy longlegs spiders as predators:

  • Prey on other spiders and insects
  • Utilize their long legs for capturing prey
  • Can catch more venomous spiders in their webs

In conclusion, daddy longlegs spiders are often misunderstood creatures that are neither venomous nor dangerous to humans. In fact, they may even be helpful in controlling the population of other pests in the environment.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Predatory Behavior

Daddy longlegs, also known as harvestmen, primarily feed on small insects and other invertebrates. They are opportunistic predators and scavengers, making them efficient hunters in diverse habitats. Predatory tactics include:

  • Ambushing prey
  • Active hunting with their long legs
  • Scavenging on dead animals

For example, daddy longlegs are known to consume aphids, flies, and mites.

Prey

Daddy longlegs have a varied diet that can include the following:

  • Insects, such as mosquitoes and flies
  • Mites and aphids
  • Earthworms
  • Snails
  • Bird droppings

On some occasions, they are also known to prey on other spiders, including vibrating spiders and jumping spiders.

Natural Enemies

Daddy longlegs face threats from various predators. Some of their natural enemies include:

  • Birds
  • Lizards
  • Frogs
  • Centipedes

To protect themselves, daddy longlegs produce a pungent odor that most predators find distasteful.

Comparison Table

Daddy Longlegs Vibrating Spider Jumping Spider
Diet Insects, mites, bird droppings Insects, spiders Insects, spiders
Predatory Behavior Ambushing, active hunting, scavenging Ambushing, capturing prey with web Ambushing, agile jumps
Natural Enemies Birds, lizards, frogs, centipedes Birds, other spiders, insects Birds, other spiders, insects
Defense Mechanisms Pungent odor Vibrating web, venom Quick jumps, venom

Habitats and Interaction with Humans

Indoor and Outdoor Living Spaces

Daddy long legs thrive in both indoor and outdoor environments. They can be commonly found in gardens, forests, and fields, as well as inside homes and buildings1. These creatures prefer damp and dark areas, often hiding beneath rocks, debris, or in corners of rooms4.

Pest Control and Benefits

Daddy long legs are known for their potential benefits in pest control. They feed on smaller insects, such as aphids, mites, and even other spiders5. As a result, they can help keep insect populations in check. Some species of daddy long legs have been found in fossils over 400 million years old2, indicating their long-standing role as natural predators in ecosystems across the globe.

Pros:

  • Natural pest control3
  • Non-aggressive, pose no threat to humans6
  • Present in various habitats worldwide7

Cons:

  • Can create unsightly webs in homes and buildings8
  • May cause discomfort for people with arachnophobia9

Comparison Table

Daddy Long Legs Spiders
Leg Length Longer Shorter
Body Shape Oval Segmented
Venom No venom glands10 Some species venomous11
Silk Glands None Present
Eye Number Two Eight

Footnotes

  1. Are daddy longlegs really the most venomous spiders in the world? 2 3
  2. Eighteen Myths About Insects and Spiders – Bug Squad – ANR Blogs 2
  3. Daddy Long Legs | Spider Research 2
  4. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/daddy-longlegs-harvestmen
  5. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/spiders-in-the-home-5.512/
  6. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/daddy-longlegs-harvestmen
  7. https://news.fnal.gov/2018/10/daddy-long-legs-15-interesting-facts/
  8. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/spiders-in-the-home-5.512/
  9. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/daddy-longlegs-harvestmen
  10. https://entomology.ucr.edu/news/2022/01/14/are-daddy-longlegs-really-most-venomous-spiders-world
  11. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/spiders-in-the-home-5.512/

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 – Harvestmen: Mysterious Cretan Creatures resemble Ticks

 

Identification
Location: Crete, Greece
February 4, 2011 6:42 am
I hope that you may be able to ID this ’creature’ for me. It is very much like a spider, but moves very slowly. When touched it ’plays dead’ and goes rigid for about 10 minutes, whereupon it will start to move again. It varies in size, anything from 1/4” long to 1” long. I found it in the bottom of my empty swimming pool (obviously fell in/was blown in) in Crete, Greece.
Carol
Signature: no problem

Cretan Creatures are Harvestmen

Hi Carol,
We opened your email just prior to leaving for a long long day at work yesterday, and we didn’t have the time to post.  We did not crop into your images because we wanted to protect the integrity of your post-production enhancements.  We are very puzzled by these creatures, and they seem to resemble Ticks.  We are hoping to get some professional assistance with your identification request.

Cretan Creatures in the order Opiliones

You can compare your creatures to photos of Ticks online, including the photos on this Texas Cooperative Extension website.

Cretan Creatures are Harvestmen

Hi, Daniel.
Many thanks for your quick response.  I looked at the Texas Co-operative Extension website, and would agree that they do rather resemble ticks, but I didn’t know that ticks were as large as these, some I have found with bodies as long as 1″.
I shall be most interested to hear further from you with hopefully a guranteed identification.
Many thanks for your help with this matter.
Carol

Entomologist Julian Donahue provides input
Hi Daniel,
They’re clearly arachnids. At first, I thought that they might be in the order Ricinulei (“tick spiders”) because of the hood-like structure at the anterior end, but the body shape and legs appear to be all wrong.
Although the mouthparts aren’t visible in the photo, my best guess is that they are unengorged ticks, based upon the body shape and the long legs.
Julian P. Donahue

Ed. Note: Thanks to a comment from Mirta in Patagonia, we now know that these unusual creatures are actually Harvestmen in the order Opiliones.  Here is a photo on Nature Photo and some images on the Natura Mediterraneo website as well.  Though we shy away from linking to Wikipedia, we did find this information there:  “The Trogulidae are a family of harvestmen with about 45 known species.  Members of this species have short legs and live in soil. They have dirt attached to their bodies, to escape predators. Their body length ranges from 2 to 22 mm. The body is in most genera somewhat flattened and leathery. Adults have a small hood, which hides their short chelicerae and pedipalps.

Many thanks to everyone for their help in identifying these creatures, I really appreciate your trouble.  If I find anything else I can’t ID, which is highly likely, then I know where to come!
Carol

Letter 2 – Harvestman: Molting? or Attacked by Fungus?

 

Harvestman caught in mid-molt?
July 15, 2009
Came across this sight on the side of a tree today, I wish these photos were clearer! The white/clear legs on the bottom caught my eye and I believe this daddy long legs is in the middle of molting. I found other similar photos on the site, thought you’d like a few more.
Kyle C.
Hatfield, MA

Harvestman:  Molting? or Fungus?
Harvestman: Molting? or Fungus?

Hi Kyle,
About a week ago, we posted a very similar image, and Eric Eaton thought the Harvestman was attacked by fungus.  Your photo inclines us to believe that this might actually be a photo of molting, and that the other photo is molting as well.
It seems there are too many legs visible for this to be a fungus attack.

Harvestman:  Molting? or Fungus?
Harvestman: Molting? or Fungus?

Update:  from Eric Eaton
I agree that THIS one looks like it is molting.  I’ll stand by my answer to the last one, too:-)
Eric

Letter 3 – Harvestman: Suborder Laniatores

 

Legged Big Fanged Black Bottom
Bugman,
I live just north of Sacramento, California (USA) and I found this spider under a raised, wooden flower bed on my front porch. I was hoping you could tell me what kind of spider it is and whether those massive fangs could do me any harm. Thank You,
Jessica

Hi Jessica,
We are nearly positive this is a Harvestman in the Suborder Laniatores. Harvestmen are also commonly called Daddy Long Legs and they do not have venom. Your photos are totally awesome. We suspect if we are correct, Eric Eaton might ask permission to post this beauty on BugGuide as well.

Letter 4 – Harvestmen

 

Daddy long legs
I have seen several references to the bug known as "daddy longlegs" and most of them say that this is not a spider, but a true bug.
The bugguide has them under arachnids and I just wanted to clear this up. My daughter is trying to identify bugs in her collection.
Thanks,
jeff

Hi Jeff,
What an awesome photo or Daddy Long-Legs or Harvestmen from the Order Opiliones. They are arachnids, and related to spiders, but are not true spiders. They have no fangs and do not bite. They use crushing mouthparts to feed primarily on the carcasses of invertebrates that have recently died.

Letter 5 – Harvestmen

 

The day of the Daddy-Long-Legs
Saturday, June 5, 2010, 11 am
Hi Bugman,
They’ve been all over the place today!
One of the Harvestmen had some mites, another had something on the top of it about the size of a mite…not sure what that might be.  Is it part of the Harvestman or another parasite?
With thanx,
R.G. Marion
Great Smoky Mountains, TN

Harvestmen

Dear R.G. Marion,
Thanks for sending us your photos of Harvestmen.  The organs in question are the eyes of the Harvestman.  You can find an explanation of the two eyes of Harvestmen on this website.

Eyes of a Harvestman

Letter 6 – Harvestmen from Iguazu Falls, Argentina: Geraecormobius sylvarum

 

Subject: Spiders (maybe) at Iguazu Falls in Argentina
Location: Iguazu Falls, Argentina
February 17, 2014 9:24 am
Dear Bugman or Bugwoman,
I know you’re probably busier than a one-armed paper hanger, but I wonder if you can identify the critters in the attached photo.
I took the photo at Iguazu Falls–a couple hours flight NE of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The spiders (?) were massed under the protected dark side of a rock ledge. My tour guide had no idea what they were. I prodded a couple of them but they were very lethargic and barely moved. Could this be because it was the heat of the day (30 C)?
I appreciate your help and time.
Signature: the Planckster

Harvestmen
Harvestmen

Dear the Planckster,
These are not spiders, but they are Arachnids.  They are Harvestmen in the order Opiliones, and unlike spiders, they do not have venom.  They are also considered scavengers that feed on dead or dying creatures as well as vegetable matter. According to Arachnology.org:  Opiliones will eat:  “‘Everything’, almost. There are many kinds of Opiliones and some seem to have distinct preferences in what they eat while most seem to be less choosy and eat almost anything, especially animal matter. Some species are predatory on small insects, snails, worms, etc., whereas others walk around nibbling on plants, fruits, and dead material that they find. In captivity, you can try feeding your Opiliones freshly chopped meal worms or other juicy insects. Oatmeal, a little piece of fruit or nut might also be eaten.”
  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.”  We will attempt to identify the species or at least the genus.  Arachnology.org has this to say about the aggregation behavior:  “This is indeed a good question. Nobody knows for sure, but scientists are investigating this behavior. It appears different kinds of Opiliones aggregate for different reasons. Some apparently aggregate to create or maintain a desirable microhabitat (temperature, humidity, darkness, etc.). Other aggregations appear to be for purposes of hibernation or rest. It may be possible that the defensive secretions of a mass of Opiliones would be more effective than those of a single individual. Also, the aggregations tend to pulsate wildly when bothered- a huge pulsating mass could be intimidating to predators.”

Harvestmen
Harvestmen

Dr. Adriano Kury responds to our identification request
Interesting, but I cannot recognize the species.
They are too much entangled.
It is a Pachylinae.
Can you photo a single one, or still better to send me one male?

Thank you Dr. Kury,
The person who sent the photo visited Iguazu Falls and took the photo, but we got the impression they were tourists and will most likely not be able to return to take either a new photo or to collect specimens.

Ricardinho Pinto da Rocha provides an identification
 Foto maravilhosa, são Geraecormobius sylvarum. Eu nunca tinha visto eles agregados.
Abraço, Ricardo
Babylon Translation:  Wonderful Photo, are Geraecormobius sylvarum. I had never seen them aggregates. Hug, Ricardo

Daniel,
Thank you kindly for your response to my email.
I appreciate your help and time.
Now I can sleep better without that question gnawing at my innards.
Ciao,
Jerry (the Planckster) Planck

Daniel,
Thanks again for the info.
You are correct–I’m no longer at Iguazu Falls.
However, the photo I sent you was a small version of what I actually took.
With my camera, I normally take both RAW and JPG pictures. The RAW photo is a much larger, uncompressed CMOS image.
To help see much greater detail when zooming in, I’ve sent a link at the bottom of this email to my Dropbox account where you can download it. It’s in a TIF format–I hope that works for you and Dr. Kury. It’s labeled “Harvestmen.tif”.
Jerry Planck


Letter 7 – Hong Kong Mystery found in a Pet Shop: Some species of Harvestman

 

Unknown Pet
Dear Sirs,
I have just acquired my new pet in the attached pictures, please advise what are they and what they eat. Thanks a lot. With regards,
Alexander

Hi Alexander,
Please provide more details. did you buy it? Did you catch it? Where was it found?

(12/19/2007) Unknown Pet
Hi Daniel,
I’m from Hong Kong and I bought these guys from a local pet shop and the actual thing is he’s on the way on studying these guys and before he came into some answer, I took a pair from him and study them also. If you have any nice advise, then that’s great. Thanks a lot. With regards,
Alexander

Hi again Alexander,
Thanks for the additional informatin. We are totally mystified. Our best guess, and this is just a guess, is one of th Opiliones or Harvestmen. We will post your images in the hopes that someone can give us an answer and provide us with links to information online.

Confirmation: Eric Eaton confirms suspicion
Daniel:
It is some kind of tropical harvestman (daddy-longlegs), probably in an entire ‘order’ that isn’t found in North America.
Eric

Harvestmen are scavengers that feed on a wide variety of organic matter.

Letter 8 – Long-Legged Love

 

more bug love?
Hi Daniel,
These harvestmen aka daddy longlegs were on an oak tree I baited for moths. When I went to check it after it got dark, I found these two engaged in what I’m assumming is mating. This was photographed in Pike County, Georgia on 7/30/05. Bill DuPree
Atlanta, GA

Hi Bill,
We can always count on your for something interesting. Looks like the Harvestmen (and Harvestwomen) have some foreplay attached to their procreative processes. Thanks for the image.

Letter 9 – Harvestmen from South Africa

 

Subject: Spider or Scorpion ID
Location: Lower South Coast of South Africa
February 12, 2013 1:36 am
Hi,
We have a ton of these little critters down by our compost heap, their body’s are about 8mm long, legs are very long and i have no clue whats coming out of its head, thats what is making think it might be a scorpion.
Signature: Mike

Harvestmen

Hi Mike,
These are neither spiders nor scorpions, though they are classified together in the class Arachnids.  They are Harvestmen in the order Opiliones and they lack venom and feed on dead and dying creatures.  See BugGuide for an explanation of North American Opiliones which includes this statement:  “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.”
  Structurally, your species seems similar to this New Zealand species of Harvestman we recently posted.  The structures you mention appear to be the chelicerae or jaws. 

Hi Daniel,
Thanks for the response, so it turns out these big guys are happy in South Africa as well. 🙂 Awesome, makes a nice change from the Widow and Baboon spiders we have found in the garden before.
Cheers,
Mike

Authors

  • 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
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