Daddy Longlegs / Harvestmen
Facts, Identification & Control
Common names are often misleading and cause a lot of confusion and mistaken identity. Such is the case with the daddy longlegs. Daddy longlegs actually refers to organisms called harvestmen who are members of the family Phalangiidae. Harvestmen have many names – harvest spiders, shepherd spiders and grandfather graybeards. However, their proper common names are daddy longlegs, harvestmen or opilionids.
The organisms are called harvestmen because they are often seen in large numbers in the fall around harvest time. Harvestmen have one body segment, two eyes, eight legs and 5/16 of an inch in length. The harvestmen’s second pair of legs is longer than the others and functions as their smell and taste sense organs. Harvestmen are not spiders, or even insects.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Unlike spiders, harvestmen aren’t venomous and don’t create silk webs. Unlike spiders that produce venom and deliver the venom via fangs, harvestmen don’t make venom and can’t deliver venom through a bite. This debunks an urban legend that falsely states daddy longlegs are the most poisonous spiders in the world, but their fangs are too small to penetrate human skin. In fact, harvestmen mouthparts, which they use to hold prey while eating them, are similar to crabs. Harvestmen produce a strong odor that repels most predators, which they use as protection.
During the daytime, harvestmen may be found in shady areas like under eaves; in basements and crawlspaces; on trees; and under rocks and logs. At night, they primarily search for food. It is rare to see harvestmen in a home’s living spaces. In the northern portions of their range, harvestmen live for only one year, while in the south they may live up to two years.
Harvestmen populations around or inside homes are usually small. Since they are beneficial predators, control measures are usually unnecessary. During the fall, harvestmen populations may briefly cluster together. Should harvestmen be found inside your home, remove them with a vacuum or broom. If control is necessary, seek the assistance of your pest management professional.