I have been, for the better part of my life, terrified of spiders (and ticks and most arachnids). Not so daddy long-legs; when they happened to creep across my foot, I let it be. Then, one fateful day a friend told me that daddy longlegs are the most venomous spider on earth but they can’t bite people because their fangs are too short.
Could this be true? As an arachnophobic kid, I found it likely and spread the word. However, as an adult my skepticism kicked in and I decided to look into it. It turns out, I’m not the only one who has wondered about this. And it’s a slightly more complicated question than I thought.
Warning – if you are arachnophobic, you might want to skip the videos below.
A little background on daddy longlegs (also known as harvestmen) — they are not spiders, but they do belong to the class Arachnida along with spiders and many more eight-legged creatures. There are thousands of species of Opiliones around the world on every continent except Antarctica. Some incredibly well-preserved specimens in amber reveal that the Opiliones have remained largely unchanged for around 400 million years.
Unlike spiders they don’t have segmented bodies, they don’t spin webs, and no, they don’t have glands to produce venom or fangs to inject it. Some species of daddy longlegs do, however, secrete chemicals that could be poisonous to small predators – this is not a risk to humans.
In case you missed it, Opiliones recently went viral on the internet for their aggregation behavior. Up to 70,000 have been recorded gathering together in a mass that looks like a ball of hair. The reasons for this behavior are unknown – scientists hypothesize that it could have to do with maintaining humidity or avoiding predation.
Despite their namesake long legs, daddy longlegs don’t run around often. They spend most of their time sitting still in a crevice or under a log – they love shady, humid places, so you might find them in your basement or crawl space. Those legs don’t go to waste though; daddy longlegs can breathe through them. That’s right, their spiracles (breathing organs) are found on their fourth pair of legs.
Have you seen a daddy longlegs with a missing leg? They can lose them to avoid predation. In fact, the placement of the spiracles can cause the legs to continue twitching – distracting the would-be predator while the daddy longlegs escapes. However, once an adult loses its legs they don’t grow back.
Daddy longlegs truly are amazing. Far more intriguing than I anticipated when I thought that they were nature’s deadliest weapon, with the ever-present threat that they would evolve longer fangs (arachnophobia can give you weird ideas).
Quick Note on the Daddy Longlegs Spider
Though the daddy longlegs spider (Pholcidae) does have fangs and “venom” – note that not all venoms are dangerous to people – it has not been studied for its toxicity.
The team at MythBusters investigated whether the daddy longlegs spider might be the deadliest in the world and busted the myth on two counts. First, they got an expert to milk the venom and compare its effect on mice (a standard test for venoms) to the effect of the same amount of black widow venom. Black widows were far more deadly. Next, Adam Savage allowed himself to be bitten by a daddy longlegs spider – not only was it able to bite him, but he barely felt the bite and suffered no ill after effects.
Join the Discussion
I’ve always liked daddy long legs and considered had one in house good luck. I moved and found 2. Then eggs and babies and had to put and end to it. There may still be one or two somewhere behind something.
Strange synchronicity — my 11 year old daughter was repeating the daddy longlegs myth just last night, and I saw the blog this morning. Maybe she’ll sleep better after I show her the article… or not after seeing the hair ball video!
I think that’s about the age I was when I heard the story too. Thank you!
Nice little piece! I’ve also heard cellar spider for pholcids common name. That oblong abdomen is a dead give-away.
Minor correction for the sake of scientific literacy: Pholcidae is family level, not order.
Thank you Rea! You are right and I have corrected the post to reflect that Pholcidae is a family.
What do they eat and what eats them? Maybe more info on their life cycle. Thanks. My daughter is an entomologist . If I ask her she says I don’t know it all, google it.
This area is poorly studied. In my research I saw suggestions that they eat decaying plant matter and smaller insects (it may vary by species). I also read that it’s not really known known whether they hunt for insects or scavenge them. I didn’t find anything about what eats them – they do have chemicals to make them taste bad, so it might be a very limited list. Thank you for the question!
I enjoyed reading about this type of spider.
I grew up summering at camp in Northeast, MD where daddy long legs “infested” the girls room. God help you if you had to pee at night. I had to shoo them away and they never bothered me so I always thought they were somewhat innocuous. Then, as an adult, I tried to gently move one out of my space and it bit me. It wasn’t life threatening, but a hard bite none the less. It hurt! Maybe it was the spider form but how can you tell?
I find the easiest way to tell is to look for the segmented body. The Opiliones have one large body segment and the Pholcidae have two segments (a head and an abdomen). It could have been either that bit you, as far as I know there is no scientific evidence that a harvestman can’t bite, only that they don’t have fangs or venom and so their bite would not be dangerous.
Aw, the folk-lore is way more interesting. I have however been bitten by a field harvestman (caught in the act) in the soft skin at the back of the knee. created a lump not unlike a fleabite but now you mention it there wasn’t any secondary irritation that might be more normally expected with venom.
That is interesting, they do have mouths, so they could bite. No venom, so perhaps you are mildly allergic to their chemical secretions? Pure speculation on my part, but an interesting incident. Thank you!
I was able to work at a summer camp in southern OH last summer and it was my first time seeing harvestmen, where I come from in NM the daddy long legs we have are the actual spiders. It was really cool learning about both of them and easing my fear of spiders bit by bit with my knowledge gained. This will really help when I teach the kids that not all spiders are scary and that the earth is there home too.
p.s. I’m actually thinking about studying these further in a scientific way, who knows what else we could learn!
Thank you Jami! I hope you do find a way to study them – it seems like we should know so much more about such a familiar creature.
Growing up in the UK “Daddy Longlegs” was applied to Crane-flies (Tipulidae). Now in Canada, when someone tells me there’s a daddy longlegs, I have to ask which of three kinds! Most confusing.
Interesting! When I was writing this, I saw a few references to crane-flies as Daddy Longlegs (not as many as for the arachnids). I didn’t realize it was a UK nickname for them.
i’m really scared of spiders, especially these. i don’t know the deal with them. Why do they like to stay in human bedrooms and houses when they have the freedom to do their webs somewhere else outside?
Thanks for the comment! Sometimes our houses make good habitat for other things too, since daddy long legs (some Opiliones and all Pholcidae) like damp dark areas, I can see why they are attracted to places like basements. Our homes also provide a steady supply of water and sometimes food. Though I too wish they would stay outside, I can see why some wildlife are attracted to human habitation.
Unlike spiders they don't have segmented bodies, they don't spin webs, and no, they don't have glands to produce venom or fangs to inject it. Some species of
They are not only beneficial for biodiversity in your home garden, but also for their omnivore appetite. As omnivores, these long-legged and delicately winged creatures act as natural vacuums for other insects. Letting daddy long legs stick around in your home may benefit you in the long run.Do daddy long legs kill or not? ›
But a spider expert has revealed the one thing you should do when you see daddy long legs - and you should definitely not kill them. Karl Curtis, director of reserves and community engagement at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, said many people wrongly assume daddy long legs are spiders, when they are actually crane flies.Can I pick up a daddy long leg? ›
Not considered pests, these arachnids are harmless to people and pets and beneficial to the environment. You can help return daddy longlegs to their rightful place by picking them up and placing them outside or gently sweeping them outside with a broom.Can a daddy long legs kill other spiders? ›
Daddy Long Legs Facts
In fact, daddy long legs are not spiders at all; they are more closely related to harvestmen. They do, however, hunt and eat other spiders, such as the brown recluse and black widows, which are particularly venomous.
Food sources: Daddy long legs feed on decaying plant matter and small invertebrates, so if you have a lot of dead leaves or other organic matter around your home, this can attract them. They may also be attracted to areas with a lot of insects, as these are a food source for many species.What instantly kills daddy long legs? ›
If you sprinkle boric acid in places where daddy longlegs enter your home you should be able to repel or kill them. Boric acid has crystal-like microscopic particles which make tiny cuts on the insects.Should I kill daddy long legs in my room? ›
You should avoid killing daddy longlegs, not only because there are alternative ways to move them along without harming them, but they also prey on smaller insects and so work to our advantage when it comes to insect control.Can Daddy Long Legs kill black widows? ›
The daddy longlegs is not harmful to humans, but they can kill redback spiders (Australian black widows).What is the lifespan of a daddy long legs? ›
The average life span of an adult daddy long legs can vary from 223-774 days and in that time the female may produce from two to eight egg sacs containing a mix of fertilised and unfertilised eggs.
Like most spiders, the daddy long legs spider is not known to pose any threat to humans, whether in terms of spider bites or venom. On the other hand, the harvestmen are poisonous, but they too do not pose any threat to humans.Do daddy long legs eat mosquitoes? ›
They go by many names, including daddy long legs, mosquito eaters, and mosquito hawks. But they are not mosquitoes, and they do not eat mosquitoes.
There is a myth that states that daddy longlegs are the most toxic of all spiders, but their mouths are too small to inflict any damage to humans. This myth is false! They are not spiders and do not have venom so they are not poisonous.What happens when a daddy long legs bites you? ›
So, for these daddy-long-legs, the tale is clearly false. Daddy-longlegs spiders (Pholcidae) - Here, the myth is incorrect at least in making claims that have no basis in known facts. There is no reference to any pholcid spider biting a human and causing any detrimental reaction.What do daddy long leg spiders hate? ›
Tip for preventing daddy long legs: Pour 1 cup white vinegar and 1/3 cup vanilla extract into a spray bottle and shake. Spray areas where the daddy long legs have been spotted indoors and out. The smell will repel the insects.What does it mean when you see a daddy long legs? ›
According to an old French peasant legend, seeing a daddy longlegs in the evening is a good thing, foretelling good fortune, happiness, and hope.Why do I keep getting daddy long legs in my house? ›
"They're not looking for shelter, they're out looking for a mate and then looking to lay eggs, they end up in houses because their favourite habitat is short grass and we have lawns." Daddy long legs lay eggs in the ground which can sit for a year.Where do Daddy Long legs mostly live? ›
Habitat. Daddy-long-legs Spiders are found in most urban areas, in particular houses. They make a thin, tangled web in sheltered positions were they are unlikely to be disturbed, such as under furniture, behind doors, in the corner of the ceilings, in sheds, in garages and under decks.How do I get rid of daddy long legs in my bedroom? ›
Vacuuming is the easiest way to remove any daddylonglegs that you find in your home. Vacuuming also helps to remove food sources from your carpets and furniture. Keep house dry. Like most insects, daddylonglegs like moisture.Do Daddy Long Legs go towards light? ›
Craneflies are usually nocturnal and are often attracted to lights. Unfortunately their legs are only weakly attached to their bodies and often break off.
Some of their primary food struggles come from: Other spiders, sometimes other daddy long legs. Birds. Wasps.Why do daddy long legs come out at night? ›
They are attracted to light, which means they enter homes at night when they see an open window, according to Wales Online.What is deadliest spider in the world? ›
Brazilian wandering spider
The Guinness Book of World Records considers the Brazilian wandering spider the most venomous in the world. Hundreds of bites are reported annually, but a powerful anti-venom prevents deaths in most cases.
If this ever happens to your furry friends, you don't need to worry – since they aren't poisonous to any mammal, daddy long legs are very unlikely to cause any adverse reactions to your pets.What spider has the worst venom? ›
The Australian funnel-web spiders (families Hexathelidae, Atracidae, Macrothelidae and Porrhothelidae), such as the Sydney funnel-web spider Atrax robustus (a mygalomorph spider not to be confused with the araneomorph funnel-weaver or grass spiders) are regarded as among the most venomous in the world.Where do Daddy Long legs go in the winter? ›
Because they don't tolerate cold well, daddy longlegs will sometimes gather in large masses when they find a sufficiently warm spot in dropping temperatures. A few years ago, two different discoveries of such arachnid “clumps” were reported in Alaska.What are daddy long legs called in America? ›
Fact: This is a tricky one. Unfortunately, different people call completely different creatures by the "daddy" term. Most Americans who spend time outdoors use the term for long-legged harvestmen (below, right), which are ground-dwelling outdoor creatures.Can you have a daddy long leg as a pet? ›
Keep your daddy long legs in an aquarium or box that's at least 12 inches long and put a screen over the top so he'll have air. Add up to an inch of sand or dirt and give him some leaves or small plants so he can hide. A terrarium makes a good home because your pet will eat fungus and decaying plant matter.How big is the biggest daddy long legs? ›
It appears to be part of several peculiarly mutated arachnids that have been discovered in the area, though no compelling explanation for the “gigantism” has been found. At 13 inches, the new discovery is just short of the 13.4-inch record for a harvestman, set by a specimen found in South America.Does a wolf spider bite hurt? ›
Since wolf spiders are large, their bite may be painful. If you have mild pain, swelling, or itchiness around the bite, it shouldn't last long. The pain should go away within minutes. The swelling should go down slowly, and the itching may last a few days as the skin heals.
The big difference between a longlegs harvestmen and a longlegs spider (cellar spider) is that the harvestmen has one part to its body. A spider has two parts: the head and the cephalothorax. Another noteworthy difference is that longlegs spiders produce silk to make webs. Longlegs harvestmen do not.Do Daddy Long legs drink water? ›
Their chelicerae (“jaws”) help tear apart their food which is mixed with digestive fluids. The opening of the mouth is wider than found with most other arachnids and this allows them to consume small pieces of solid food. Daddylonglegs also must have access to free water that they can drink.What's a Skeeter eater? ›
Often called mosquito hawks or skeeter eaters, these delicate creatures pulsating off your walls and ceilings are adult crane flies. Despite the nickname, they don't eat mosquitoes — or much of anything else, for that matter. They just don't have the mouth parts for it.How many legs can a daddy long legs lose? ›
In the daddy longlegs' case, the lost leg doesn't grow back. But they persevere. A daddy longlegs that's missing one, two, or even three legs can recover a surprising degree of mobility by learning to walk differently. “They have a 60 percent probability of losing a leg during their lifetime,” Escalante explained.What type of bug is a daddy long legs? ›
Daddy longlegs, or harvestmen, are familiar Missouri animals. They are not spiders, but opilionids. Unlike spiders, they have a fused body form and lack silk and venom glands. In harvestmen, the body is a simple oval, and it's usually hard to tell where the “head” ends and the segmented “abdomen” begins.What is the real name of the Daddy-long-legs Spider? ›
A species of spider called Pholcus phalangioides which is found in cellars, basements and dark corners of houses. It's also called the Daddy Long Legs spider or Cellar spider.How poisonous are black widows? ›
Black widows are the most venomous spider in North America. Their venom is about 15 times stronger than rattlesnake venom, and uses a chemical called alpha-latrotoxin to overwhelm nerve cells and cause immense pain.What happens if you are bitten by a black widow spider? ›
Minor swelling, redness, and a target-shaped sore may appear. After 15 minutes to 1 hour, a dull muscle pain spreads from the bite area to the whole body. If the bite is on the upper body, you will usually feel most of the pain in your chest.Are tarantulas poisonous? ›
Tarantula toxicity is a rare occurrence. There are over 900 species of tarantula, and they are popular as pets. While tarantulas do possess venom, the vast majority of tarantula-related injuries occur as a result of urticating hairs.Why do daddy long legs shake? ›
If disturbed they vibrate in their webs, which is probably a way to frighten predators. They feed on any insects found in homes and will also take other spiders, including surprisingly large house spiders (Tegenaria species). This species is not native to the UK, and may have been introduced through trade.
It is rare for harvestmen to be found in homes, and because they are nocturnal, being most active at night, they can be difficult to detect.How can you tell if a daddy long leg is male or female? ›
In a few species, males are smaller than females. The males of some species also possess anal glands or sternal glands, as well as secretory structures known as adenostyles on certain walking legs. Similar structures are not present on females.Is it Daddy Long legs or Daddy's? ›
The common name "daddy long-legs" is used for several species, especially Pholcus phalangioides, but is also the common name for several other arthropod groups, including harvestmen and crane flies.Is there a mama long legs spider? ›
Appearance. Mother Longlegs are gigantic spider-like creatures that stand around 5 to 7 meters tall. They possess incredibly long legs that resemble bamboo stalks, allowing them to blend in seamlessly with the surrounding forests, with their legs posing as plants and their upper bodies held high above the canopy.Why shouldn't you kill a spider? ›
Spiders truly are nature's pest control. They help keep flies, roaches, mosquitoes, stink bugs, and many other home invading species from ever getting inside. Spiders are also great for gardeners. Spiders help keep crop killing insects from ruining your tomatoes, squash, and other plants.Why do I have so many daddy long legs in my house? ›
Adult daddy long legs only live for between five to 15 days, during which time they need to find a mate and the females lay eggs. They are attracted to light, which is why you will often see them in your home, after their eggs are laid in moist or wet soil and grass.How long do daddy long legs live for? ›
The average life span of an adult daddy long legs can vary from 223-774 days and in that time the female may produce from two to eight egg sacs containing a mix of fertilised and unfertilised eggs.Does it hurt a spider to lose a leg? ›
To a spider, losing a leg isn't a very big deal. Heck, some even voluntarily castrate themselves. Overall, there's a slight lag in development time. Being short a leg or two (or six) is going to slow you down a bit, which makes prey harder to catch.Do spiders feel pain when squished? ›
Even so, they certainly cannot suffer because they don't have emotions. If you heavily injure an insect, it will most likely die soon: either immediately because it will be unable to escape a predator, or slowly from infection or starvation.Do spiders get scared to death? ›
Their own bigger relatives. If you have a paralyzing fear of spiders, here's a Halloween treat: Some spiders can be literally scared to death by their own eight-legged relatives.
Answer and Explanation: While the theory is unproven, it is likely that spiders can detect human fear. However, there are only few studies about this topic and it is not yet known for certain. Different animals have sensory organs that are able to identify different stimuli.Should I let Daddy Long Legs live in my room? ›
These arachnids are not known to bite humans and are not considered dangerous to either the health or structure of your home. Because harvestmen are considered beneficial pests, it's ok to leave them be if you find them lurking around your house.Should you leave Daddy Long Legs in your house? ›
If you already have daddy long legs living with you, a recommended means of removal is to vacuum them up and throw away the contents in a sealed bag in an outdoor garbage can.Should I let a daddy long leg stay in my house? ›
Daddy Long Legs
But like common household spiders, you should leave these guys alone if you spot them in your house. They aren't poisonous to humans and basically couldn't even really bite us (their mouths are too small). They prefer eating fruit and other insects, which they'll happily catch and rid your home of.
Generally in the evening, at anytime of the year, but it is most common in the autumn.Where do daddy long legs go in the winter? ›
Because they don't tolerate cold well, daddy longlegs will sometimes gather in large masses when they find a sufficiently warm spot in dropping temperatures. A few years ago, two different discoveries of such arachnid “clumps” were reported in Alaska.Can spiders regrow eyes? ›
“When daylight approaches, the spiders digest their retinas. Each evening, at dusk they regrow their super-sensitive retinas to be able to see again,” he said.Why do spiders curl up in water? ›
This is because spiders can pull their legs inwards, but their muscles will not allow them to extend their legs back out. They overcome this obstacle by pumping a liquid into their legs, forcing them to straighten out. However, when they die, there is no liquid being pumped into their legs, making their legs curl.Do spiders legs grow back if they lose one? ›
Abstract. Leg loss is a common phenomenon in spiders, and according to the species 5% to 40% of the adults can present at least one missing leg. There is no possibility of regeneration after adult moult and the animal must manage with its missing appendages until its death.