We’ve all had that experience where we see the daddy long legs, and get the willies about a spider. Then we’ve all heard crazy things about these fascinating creatures, like they are highly poisonous, but their mouth is just too small to bite. Or maybe you’ve heard that they eat mosquitoes, so keep them around. It can be hard to get past all the urban legends, but once you do, these insects are quite exquisite. Take a few minutes, and learn the truth behind daddy long legs, and help set the record straight when you hear someone spinning one of the legendary stories.
Are Daddy Long Legs Even Spiders?
First things first, we need to discuss the most common urban legend that daddy long legs are spiders. The reality is that they belong to the arachnid class, as do spiders, scorpions, ticks, and mites. However, when you get into further classifications within the arachnid family, with daddy long legs actually being closer to scorpions. However, there are actually two different broad types of daddy long legs, those that belong in the Opiliones Order, and those in the Pholcidae family, which are actually spiders. So, what’s the difference? The Opilionids have only two eyes, one basic body segment, and living under rocks, rotting timber, and generally most environments. The actual spiders have eight eyes and two body segments. If you found the daddy long leg in your home, chances are it’s one of the pholcid, or actually a spider.
Do Daddy Long Legs Bite?
Daddy long legs have mouths, like many other insects, and can therefore have the capability to bite. However, you seldom hear about a daddy long leg biting a human. The reason for this is just physiology. The mouth of the actual pholcids, or the actual spider, has what’s called uncate fangs. This means there are short fangs with a third tooth that meets the fang like a pincer. This is the same mechanism as that of brown recluse spiders. However, in this instance, it’s speculated there is just not enough muscle strength to actually penetrate human skin.
Are Daddy Long Legs Venomous?
When we say something is venomous, that has a very distinct physiological description. First, this means that they have a venom gland to produce the substance. Then, there are ducts to carry the venom through to something like a fang, which injects it into the target organism. Without all of these characteristics, a creature is not actually venomous. Poisonous, on the other hand, simply means something about the creature may react when other things that come in contact with or ingest it. In either of these cases, the effect is not universal, but is specifically tailored as a defensive measure or toward the organism’s prey. The Opilionid daddy long legs does not have venom glads, ducts, or fangs, and therefore cannot be classified as venomous. The pholcids do, in fact, have the physiology to be classified as venomous. However, there is no evidence to suggest that venom is toxic to human beings, letting the web of this urban legend finally die.
Do Daddy Long Legs Make Webs?
This again depends on what creature you’re actually discussing. The true daddy long legs, which are the Opilionids, do not have a segmented body, and therefore cannot spin a web. In fact, they actually are more of a scavenger than a hunter, and therefore don’t have the need for webs. The pholcid daddy long legs, on the other hand, do have the segmented body, and do make silk for webs. Most researchers don’t actually label pholcids as daddy long legs, technically speaking. However, they are commonly mistaken by the general public because of the initial similarity between the size of its body and legs.
Do Daddy Long Legs Have a Useful Purpose?
Both the Opilionids and pholcids have beneficial purposes, and are best to leave alone whenever possible. The Opilionids will scavenge a variety of things, including dead insects, plants, even bird droppings. Pholcids are more of your predator spider, which is why they create the web. They’ll attract in a variety of other insects, removing them from the environment.
Do Daddy Long Legs Grow Their Legs Back?
You may remember a friend growing up telling you that a daddy long leg’s legs will grow back. This is not entirely accurate, but there is speculation it’s not entirely false either. However, don’t let kids pull their legs off just to find out, that’s just wrong. This urban legend came from the fact that these creatures will voluntarily give up a leg to get away from a predator. However, they aren’t like a star fish that will grow back one of its appendages, at least not as an adult. To understand this, you have to understand that these creatures have an exoskeleton. What that means is that they must molt, or shed, that exoskeleton to grow. While scientists haven’t observed it directly, the speculation is that if a young daddy long leg loses a leg, it will start to grow back as it continues molting. However, full-grown daddy long legs no longer molt, so they will not grow back any appendages they lose or that are injured.
Are Daddy Long Legs Endangered?
When you think of endangered species, you likely have images of whales, gorillas, rhinos, or elephants run through your mind. But daddy long legs? It is true that some species of daddy long legs are actually endangered. When we think of the endangered daddy long legs, we’re actually talking about the Opilionids, the true daddy long legs. Currently, we know that six species are either critically endangered or extinct, eight are endangered, and several more are vulnerable. This may not seem like a big deal, but it has devastating consequences for the ecosystem, including indigenous birds that feed on them. Think about that before grabbing your shoe the next time you see one. What was the most surprising fact you learned about daddy long legs, or did we miss something you find interesting? Share it in the comments below.