What Are Daddy Long Legs?
Daddy long legs (Order Opiliones) are also called harvestmen and shepherd spiders. These members of the arachnid family are easily recognized by their 8 long, thin legs. Their legs are designed to fall off to help them escape predators. A detached leg can continue to twitch for up to an hour, distracting the predator while the daddy long leg hobbles away on 7 legs.
They love the night life, often feeding on small insects. Unlike stories shared on the playground, daddy long legs are not venomous and their mouthparts are too small to pierce human skin. Daddy long legs are also known to congregate in large masses with their legs interlaced. When disturbed, they shake violently, causing the mass to vibrate.
Are Daddy Long Legs Poisonous?
No. There’s been a myth floating around for a long time that daddy long legs are one of the most poisonous spiders, but their fangs are too short to penetrate human skin.
For the record, this is completely false. In fact, daddy long legs don’t have venom glands or fangs at all. They pose no threat to people whatsoever.
This misinformation comes from confusion surrounding the identity of cellar spiders (which are also commonly referred to as daddy longlegs spiders). Cellar spiders belong to a different classification of spiders, which is completely separate from daddy long legs.
Daddy Long Legs Are Imposters
While daddy long legs are arachnids and have 8 legs, they’re not true spiders (Order Araneae). Instead of fangs, daddy long legs have claws around their mouths (called chelicerae) for grasping prey. They have a single pair of eyes and a fused, rounded body while true spiders have 6-8 eyes and 2 distinct body parts. Unlike most true spiders, daddy long legs cannot produce silk and weave webs; instead, they ambush their prey like wolf spiders.
Where to Find Daddy Long Legs
Although a harmless annoyance, daddy long legs will lurk around your home and garden in the spring and summer. Daddy long legs often hang out around water sources.
They like dark, damp places which is why you’ll sometimes find them in your basement, garage, or crawl space. Female daddy long legs lay eggs in moist soil in the fall, and the eggs hatch in the spring. In northern parts of the U.S., they live for one year, but in the southeast when the winters are mild, they have been known to live for 2 years.
They're the Good Guys
Daddy long legs eat spiders, earthworms, and other insects. They’ll also scavenge for dead insects, decaying plant material and insect eggs if live prey isn’t available. Because they like to eat garden pests like aphids, it’s beneficial to have them in your garden.
Keep Them out of Your House
While daddy long legs are beneficial in the garden, it can be annoying (or even creepy) when you encounter them in your house. To keep daddy long legs out of your home, trim plants away from your house and clean up the wood, trash and other debris around the perimeter of your house. Seal cracks and crevices around your foundation, windows, and doors, and repair broken screens so they have no way of entering your home. Use Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter2 around your window and door casings and along baseboards to help create a perimeter barrier to help keep them out.