Spider? Nay, Harvestmen

The harvestmen is commonly referred to as the “daddy longlegs” due to its extremely long legs. It looks like a spider, though it is actually not a true spider. It is an arachnid, belonging to the same class as spiders, scorpions, and mites.

There are many clear differences between the harvestmen and the spider. The harvestmen’s body is a simple oval and has only one section to it. This differs from the spider, which has clear segments on its body. Unlike the spider, the harvestmen does not have silk or venom glands. Without silk glands, this woobly arachnid can not build webs. Most importantly, the harvestmen, if you look closely, only has two eyes, not eight! They will emit a weird odor to fend off predators rather than bite, since their mouthparts are too small.

It is easy to confuse the harvestmen with the long-legged cellar spider. At first glance the long-legged cellar spider looks quite like the harvestmen. However, the long-legged cellar spider is a true spider since it has segmented body parts, eight eyes, silk glands, and venom glands. The cellar spider is also smaller and will live in people’s houses rather than outside like the harvestmen.

The harvestmen may look large with those huge legs, but its body is only about 1/2 inch long! It is easy to pull the legs off of a harvestmen, though this is quite cruel, as it is a docile and virtually defenseless creature. Luckily, if the harvestmen loses one or two legs by accident it can still get around quite easily.

The docile daddy longlegs has long been accused of being highly venomous, though these claims are just an urban legend. The harvestmen is, in fact, one of the most harmless arachnids that are out there. One of my favorite past times was letting them crawl all over my arm. They were quite pleasant to hang out with on the playground in elementary school!


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