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Daddy Longlegs

By Whitney Cranshaw, specialist in entomology, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

There are few more widespread but erroneous urban legends about any arthropod than the one that claims that the daddy longlegs spider is potentially dangerous.  Typically, the story goes, "The daddy longlegs is the most poisonous spider in the world, but its jaws are too weak to bite."

This is untrue in many ways.  Most important, daddy longlegs don't even possess poison glands.  They may feed on small, soft-bodied insects, but many also feed on plant juices.  They feed on these by sucking the fluids that are available after they crush plants with their weak jaws.

Daddy longlegs also are not spiders.  They are very different arthropods, members of the order Opiliones.

It's common to see these benign animals late in the season as they become full-grown.   In Britain, they are referred to as "harvestmen," reflecting the fact that they wander about during the harvest period.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

For more information on daddy longlegs, see (offsite):

Answers to common questions about harvestmen

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010