This Weeks Creature Feature ... Grand Daddy’s Galore
Clusters of long-legged creatures congregate around my screen door and atop my plants.
Granddaddy or daddy long-legs, also called harvestmen, turn up just about everywhere inside and outside of my home. I find them on walls and plants, the clothesline and the stone patio.
Daddy long-legs are arachnids, more closely related to scorpions than to spiders. They have one body section, two eyes and a segmented abdomen. Spiders have two body sections, eight eyes and are unsegmented.
Like spiders, a normal daddy long-leg has eight legs but can survive if several are torn off. I’ve been counting their thread-thin legs lately. Mine always have six or seven. It’s amazing how such delicate legs, as thin as a strand of hair, can support their bulbous, bubble body.
If our legs were that thin, we would collapse. Seventeenth century scientist Robert Hook estimated the strength of the harvestman’s legs by comparison: legs “150 times the strength of man would not keep the body from falling on the breast.”
Urban legend says that daddy long-legs have the most potent venom of any spider, but their fangs are either too small or too weak to puncture human skin. I’ve never been bitten, and I’ve handled hundreds.
Daddy long-legs are ranked as good bugs because of their habit of invading spiders’ webs. They trick the spiders into coming out by vibrating the web to mimic a trapped insect. Opportunistic hunters, they also eat insect eggs and other soft insects, plus decomposing plants and animals. Harvestmen clean each long leg after a meal, pulling them one at a time through their jaws.
Daddy long-legs can live up to a year, but die earlier in colder climates. In the north, most die in the fall after eggs are laid in soil, under stones or in wood crevices. In the south, they winter under organic matter.
In our changing climate, they must be fattening up for winter.