Do you like creepy-crawlies? Some kids freak out when they see a spider or a scary insect. Others, though, are fascinated by them and love to catch them to study them up-close.
At one time or another, you’ve probably seen a creeping, crawling creature known commonly as a daddy longlegs. It kind of looks like a spider, but is it one? You may have also heard that it’s the most venomous creature in the world but its fangs are too short to penetrate human skin. But is any of that true?
The answers to these questions depend, in part, on exactly which daddy longlegs you’re talking about. That name is often used to describe several different creatures. For example, it may be used to describe the long-legged crane fly, which is an insect, or long-legged cellar spiders, which are true spiders.
Mostly, though, daddy longlegs is used to refer to Opiliones, which are an order of arachnids also known as harvestmen. Scientists believe there could be over 10,000 different species of harvestmen.
Harvestmen are arachnids, but not spiders. They have eight legs and look a bit like spiders, but there are several key differences. For example, harvestmen have one body section and two eyes, while most spiders have two body sections and eight eyes.
Harvestmen also don’t produce silk and don’t have venom. Thus, that old myth about daddy longlegs being the most venomous creature on Earth is just that: a myth. Even if you call a harvestman a daddy longlegs, there’s no proof that its venom is especially toxic to humans.
Harvestmen tend to live on the ground in moist areas, such as under logs and rocks. Their long legs explain the “longlegs” part of their nickname, although no one knows for sure where the “daddy” part of the nickname came from. Curiously, scientists point out that there are some species of harvestmen that have short legs!
The long legs of most harvestmen are very important to them. Harvestmen sense the world around them with their legs, like we do with our ears, nose, tongue and skin. If you try to capture a harvestman, one or more of its legs might fall off. Although losing its legs might help a harvestman escape a predator, it seriously hurts its ability to sense the world around it.