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Daddy Long Legs

The name 'Daddy-Long-Legs' has been used for at least two different kinds of arachnids - spiders (Pholcus phalangioides) and harvestmen (Opoliones).

DADDY-LONG-LEGS
The animal which most biologists call "daddy-long-legs", is a spider, Pholcus phalangioides, which belongs to the spider family Pholcidae, order Araneida, class Arachnida. The CSIRO handbook follows this usage: Naumann, Ian 1993. CSIRO Handbook of Australian Insect Names: common and scientific names for insects and allied organisms of economic and environmental importance. CSIRO.

 Pholcid spiders are araneomorph spiders which kill and digest their prey using venom. However there is no scientific basis for the urban myth that daddy-long-legs are the most venomous, poisonous or toxic spiders in the world. Their venom has never been tested and certainly not on humans!!

Daddy-long-legs spiders have venom glands and fangs but their tiny fangs are fused at the base (uncate) however brown recluse spiders fangs are also uncate and they can certainly bite humans!  As far as Dr Mike Gray (senior arachnologist at the Australian Museum) knows, there is no evidence in the scientific literature to suggest that the venom of daddy-long-legs could harm humans. There is also not much scientific evidence to suggest whether or not they can bite humans, this seems to be part of the myth as well!!

However daddy-long-legs kill and eat other spiders, including Redback Spiders whose venom CAN be fatal to humans. Perhaps this is the origin of the rumour that daddy-long-legs are the most venomous spiders in the world. It might be argued that if they can kill a deadly spider, they must be even more deadly themselves, but daddy-long-legs only need to be quicker to bite, not more venomous.

For more info check out these sites:
http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/spidermyth/myths/daddyvenom.html
http://spiders.ucr.edu/daddylonglegs.html
(Would like to know if this guy is referring to me!! hope not!!)

Here's some photos sent in by David.

"Hey I've visited your site a lot and used to be very scared of spiders but now its almost like I've got used to them as we get a lot in this house. I find them fascinating and the other day I noticed a daddy long legs was sitting in my wardrobe with some eggs in its mouth. This morning I looked and they had all hatched! Will the mother stay with them for long like that or will they eventually just wander off? They just sit there for ages, I haven't seen them move, well until i gently blew the web! Anyway the main reason I sent the email was to show you this cool photo I took of another daddy long legs from the living room. It seems to have another spider in its jaw and I'm quite pleased with how the photo came out. At the highest res the detail is great! How would it eat that spider? its almost bigger than the daddy long legs, would it last a few days? Oh and another question. I notice the spider has only 7 legs and their was one with just 6 a while ago. Do they grow back??  Thanks for the great website. I love checking the photos and identifying spiders with the help of it. For example I found a crab spider the other day and before i looked on your site i didn't know what the hell it was! I've learnt so much about spiders since visiting your site and its really helped me over come my fear! Sorry for all the questions! Mainly wanted to show you the photo's! Thanks, David"
Click photo on left for larger view.

Here's some photos of a daddy-long-legs and some babies sent in by Dave Hood.
"Iíve been watching the ones on the ceiling of my garage for a few weeks, as they tend their eggs. Here are a few photos that might entertain you.
Thanks again, Dave Hood"
http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Port/2945/
davehood@pacbell.net

"Here's a follow-up from this morning. You'll notice in the photo on the left, that the mother still has a loose white ball of fluff. I had assumed that the babies ate the eggs as part of hatching, and thought the ball of fluff might be remnants of the eggs. In the photo on the right, you'll see what the ball of fluff really is: the remnants of baby spiders that didn't escape from the communal ball soon enough! With cannibalistic siblings, you really wouldn't want to hatch out in the middle of that ball! Red in tooth and claw, she is, nature!
Dave"

Thanks Dave.  

Here's an email that seems to confirm that Daddy Long Legs can indeed bite. Anyone who has any comments please email.

Hi there
My son was just bitten by a spider and he described it as a daddy long legs. I've been on the net getting photos up to confirm. Years ago I was bitten by a daddy long legs myself, after my mum said 'Don't worry they can't bite'. I watched it lower its body and then bite me. Bang went my faith in my mother's advice. My son has just confirmed it was also a daddy long legs that bit him. The bribe of a chocolate frog cut through the spurious info. His wrist has come up hot and swollen. The points of bite are fluid-filled blisters and his hand has just started to swell. Fairly evenly coloured red rashes have developed on parts of his lower arm. The swelling was so great that the child-care worker thought his arm was broken. He has seen a doctor. He asked if it was snake bite because the points of bite were similar to snake bite. The spider had been on Joel's hand biting him, getting his attention and while biting a second time was removed by my son (to get the pointy bit out of him). A strange cluster of small pustules has developed to the side of the major bite points. There is also a faint yellowish colouring developing (like a bruise). He has no obvious ill-effects apart from the swelling and pain at the site. No tummy upset, no headache, nothing else and the bite happened just over 24 hours ago. He was advised to take Claratyne (antihistamine). It has provide some relief But Joel's body is still coping with the poison. Just as it's a fallacy that they are THE most poisonous, it is also obviously a fallacy that they do not/cannot bite.

Cheers
Katherine Bradfield
South Australia

It's Day Five. Bitten Friday, it's now Tuesday. He had two doses of 24 hour strength antihistamine The spreading patches of red have gone, his hand and wrist are still slightly puffy. The two bite sites (main pustules) are still just as high as
they are wide. He doesn't complain of pain but does say it's itchy sometimes. Joel is not quite five years old. Still no horrific side-effects but am unsure about what to do
about the pockets of fluid where he was bitten. Taking him back to doctor for advice.
Have seen/read horror stories about progressive spider bites. Very grateful for the internet. Without it I'd not have been able to show my son pictures of spiders to get confirmation of what bit him. I'll let you know what happens. Thank you for your web page.

Day Seven: The swelling has completely gone. The bite points are drying (like scabs)  But there is a very pale patch (almost white) immediately around the bites  with a slight shadow further out extending over an area of maybe  three inches, grubby, like he's recovering from a bruise.  I can get a dark colouration in the skin (in the later stages) where a  bruise is healing, genetically peculiar to me. I observe Joel with interest.  He's complaining if it being itchy (nearly a week after). We had a hot  day today (33 degrees). I've put Savlon (antiseptic cream) on it and most lately  Stop Itch (anti-itch cream for mosquito bites). Heat exacerbates any itch  I might have, so I empathise. Another hot day forecasted tomorrow.

Pictures of Pholcus phalangioides kindly sent by Ed Nieuwenhuys.

HARVESTMEN
The other eight-legged invertebrates which are sometimes called "daddy-long-legs", are members of the order Opiliones or Opilionida in the class Arachnida. Biologists generally call these animals 'harvestmen' (e.g. the CSIRO Handbook (ed. Ian Naumann) cited above).

Unlike spiders, their bodies do not have a 'waist' and they do not produce silk; they normally have only one pair of eyes. They do not have venom glands or fangs, although they may produce noxious defence secretions. Most harvestmen eat smaller invertebrates but some eat plant material and others feed on carcasses of dead mammals and birds.

For more information and pictures of Opiliones, try Ed Nieuwenhuys' page. Pictures of Opiliones with thanks, from Ed's page.

Information provided with thanks by Elizabeth Cameron Information Officer, Australian Museum's Information and Resource Centre after several queries about Daddy Long Legs being the most venomous spider in the world.

Photo below from Bret.

Here's an email and some photos of some strange behaviour by some opiliones from Brennan. Click for a larger view:
Hello Glen, I was hiking along side a creek bed and I saw this cave structure and I happened to spot a Orchard spider around the rocks in the entrence of this cave-like openeing. I happened to also see some Harvestman by the area as well. I kept trying to look inside the opening to see if I could see anything. A minute or two latter I heard this ruffling inside the cave and I thought it was some sort of mammel (i.e. a skunk or snake maybe). Then I heard this low frequency high pitch streetching noise coming and some sort of whislings of grass noise as well. Instantly after, 200+ harvestman spiders were rushing out of the cave. It was an amazing sight to see. It was like looking at an angry ants colony. They were climbing on all sides of the rock walls, running through the dead leaves of the dark floor, and coming from all sorts of cracks and opening within the rocks. The noise continued for another minute or so. It was almost like there was some gaseous flames bursting from some thermal vent on the other side of their home and they were running for their lives not to become fried chicken(spiders). It was very spectacular to see and hear so many of them. I think it was my flickering of my flash on my camera that made them come....As a matter of fact,now that I think aboutr it, the noise the flash makes sounds somewhat similar to the noise the harverstmen were making. It's plausible that thats what really triggered such an abundous amount of them to come out. I have some photos of the small cave and plenty of pictures to give you an idea of how many there were. Now the pictures you see are not even close to the amount that were there but the bunches in the pictures hopefully give you an idea. Thanks again, -Brennan

Information and pictures were taken from children's projects and where credited to that child does not claim to be original information. Where possible, permission to reproduce has been sought. Any infringement of copyright is purely unintentional.

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