With its elongated, spindly legs, the daddy long legs spider strikes an unforgettable — and, for some, frightening — pose. But how concerning are these creepy crawlies? Is their appearance in and/or around your home cause for alarm?
First, let's start by confirming that "daddy long legs" is just a common name for harvestmen, which are arachnids, but not true spiders.
Are harvestmen poisonous?
When talking about spiders or other arachnids, people often confuse the meaning of "poisonous" with "venomous." While most spiders are venomous because they can harm you through the injection of their venom, they are not poisonous because they generally do not cause harm through touching or ingesting them. And though harvestmen have what are considered “fangs,” they do not have “fangs” for the purpose of injecting venom like a true spider does.
Harvestmen belong to the order Opiliones, which is part of the arachnid class that also includes spiders, scorpions and mites. Spiders sport six to eight eyes, but harvestmen rely on a single pair. Harvestmen also lack the ability to spin silk and weave webs. Instead, they are ambush predators.
What do harvestmen eat?
Harvestmen eat spiders, earthworms and other insects. If no live prey is readily available, they will scavenge, meaning their diet can also include dead insects, decaying plant material and insect eggs. Because they have a taste for garden pests like aphids and house pests like spiders, harvestmen are considered beneficial insects.
What is the lifespan of harvestmen?
Female harvestmen lay hundreds of eggs in moist soil. The eggs are laid in the fall and hatch in the spring. In northern areas of the United States, their lifespan is only one year. In the southeast, they can survive most mild winters, increasing their lifespan to two years.
Do harvestmen bite?
Yes and no. As noted, harvestmen are omnivores and are classified as both predators and scavengers. They use fang-like mouthparts known as “chelicerae” to grasp and chew their food. However, harvestmen aren't known to bite humans and are not considered a danger to households.
Interesting facts about harvestmen legs
Of course, it's easy to see why harvestmen are often called "daddy long legs." Harvestmen are more easily able to elude predators thanks to their long legs — but not for the reason you might expect. Harvestmen are quickly separated from their legs, which seem designed to fall off. This is called autotomy. Once detached, the leg can continue to twitch for up to an hour, effectively tricking predators into believing they've hauled in a big catch. Meanwhile, the harvestmen has since escaped. If that strategy fails, harvestmen deploy one last defensive measure. They secrete foul-smelling, bad-tasting chemicals that most predators find unappetizing.
Do you need to protect your home against harvestmen?
If you spot harvestmen in your home, you don't necessarily need to get rid of them. They may be an unattractive nuisance, but harvestmen, as mentioned before, aren't known to harm humans and aren't associated with structural damage to your home. Under normal conditions, harvestmen prefer dark, moist environments. You are most likely to discover them in your basement, garage or crawl space. They rarely make their presence known in the finished areas of your home.
How can you help get rid of harvestmen in your house?
Because they’re non-venomous, beneficial insects that don’t damage buildings, trees or desirable plants, you typically don't need to do anything to control daddy long legs. However, if you do want to try to remove them, you can simply sweep or vacuum them up.
Bottom line: Harvestmen may be slightly spooky, but there's really no reason to fear these fascinating creatures. However, if you do fear that there are actual spiders in your home, contact Terminix® for help.