Daddy Longlegs

Daddy longlegs,  they’re creepy, they’re crawly, they have eight legs, they hunt and eat insects but…they are not spiders.

A long running myth  suggests that this is the most poisonous insect you will ever encounter but it just doesn’t have the mouthparts to bite us.

Sometimes this myth is transferred to the harmless, common house spider which looks similar and is also referred to as a Daddy Longleg.

The good news is this critter doesn’t have any venom even if it could bite.

This animal can be found in fossil records 350-400 million years old and is so successful it hasn’t evolved much since then.

Ancient as it is, it has highly developed eyes but they are fixed on its head in a position that doesn’t allow it to see where it is going or what it is eating.

Most of the information about its surroundings comes from sensations gathered by its highly sensitive, elongated second pair of legs which are used for probing and sensing vibrations.

Daddy longlegs, also known as Huntsmen or Harvestmen, are in an order of their own called opiliones.

Even though they have eight legs their similarities to spiders end there.

Daddy longlegs don’t make silk or webs to catch prey, they hunt by stalking. They will eat live or dead insects, plants and plant juices, even feces.

If threatened they exude defensive (smelly) compounds and if injured can re-grow lost legs.

Most opilionids only live one year.  The females lay eggs in the soil each fall.  In the spring the young emerge looking like miniature versions of their parents.  As they grow they shed their skin like other insects and after a summer of feeding, they mate and start the cycle all over.

So the next time you see one of these spider like creatures just remember, they are just harmless janitors helping clean up the yard, not the most poisonous toothless insect in the world.■

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