Daddy longlegs: the most venomous spider in the world?
There’s a common urban legend out there when it comes to Daddy longlegs: they’re extremely dangerous venomous spiders but their mouths are too small to bite you.
However, Jason Wheeler, the owner of Amarillo-based Ace Pest Control, has something to say about that often-repeated myth.
“It’s 100 percent false,” he said. “Actual true Daddy longlegs are neither venomous nor spiders.”
While Daddy longlegs are arachnids, they have only one body part and no distinct segmented cephalothorax and abdomen. Though it looks like they have eight legs, their front two “legs” are just feelers so they technically only walk around on six. They don’t have silk glands so they’re not capable of spinning webs. And - this is the big one - they have no venom glands or fangs.
“They couldn’t envenomate anyone even if they wanted to,” he said, noting that they feed on decaying organic matter such as insects and plant life. “They’re absolutely harmless.”
So how did Daddy longlegs get such a bad rap? Well, it’s largely because the term “Daddy longlegs” is often used to refer to a few different animals - and only one of them is actually a spider at all! We’ll get to that one - the cellar spider - in a minute, but let’s stick to the creature that most of us commonly identify as a Daddy longlegs.
Daddy longlegs are harvestmen and they’re in their own class in the order Opiliones.
“They’re more closely related to scorpions than they are spiders,” he said. “Their mouth is just kind of like a grabber and that’s what they use to pull the food off whatever they’re eating and ingest it. They eat food whole while spiders will dissolve the inner tissues into a goo and suck it out.”
Another way that harvestmen are different from spiders is that they only have two eyes whereas spiders have multiple pairs of eyes. Additionally, they have just one self-defense mechanism which is grouping in large numbers and secreting a foul-smelling chemical that can be dangerous to other spiders and insects but not humans.
Wheeler said that one of the worst groupings he’s ever seen was on a wall leading to an underground area.
“You couldn’t see the wall,” he said. “If you were scared of spiders or believed the myth about Daddy longlegs being dangerous, it would have been a terrifying sight.”
Now, let’s discuss cellar spiders, which as we mentioned above are often misidentified as Daddy longlegs.
Cellar spiders are true spiders with segmented bodies, four pairs of eyes and a violin shape on their back, similar to what you would see on a brown recluse spider. Unlike a Daddy longlegs, a cellar spider has both silk and venom glands.
“Are they the most venomous spider in the world? No, absolutely not,” Wheeler said. “They have a much, much less strong venom than a black widow or a brown recluse.”
Remember the part of the myth that refers to the size of the mouth of the Daddy longlegs - or, in actuality, the cellar spider? Here’s the thing, Wheeler said. Spiders don’t bite you with their mouth. They bite you with their fangs, and the fangs of a cellar spider are very similar in size and scale to a brown recluse. The good news is that cellar spiders are not known to be aggressive and they prefer to make their webs in undisturbed areas like ceiling joists and crawl spaces.
“I’m not telling you to, but you could typically mess with them without them bothering you,” Wheeler said. “And just like the actual Daddy longlegs, cellar spiders aren’t dangerous either so that myth we talked about before? It’s 100 percent false.”
Just because Daddy longlegs and cellar spiders aren’t harmful doesn’t mean that we want them in our homes. Unfortunately, these pests don’t always get the memo.
“They want to be in an enclosed space and our homes provide ideal temperatures year-round for them and their prey so they’ll have a food supply,” Wheeler said. “They’ll have shelter and because they often get into areas that are less disturbed, they have safety as well.”
When Wheeler gets a spider call, it’s typically because they’ve been spotted on interior ceilings or in the garage. If the offending pest happens to be a cellar spider - as is often the case - a big part of the treatment involves using a web brush to remove the web, spider eggs and all.
“Because they spin webs, they’re actually very easy to control,” he said.
Generally, Wheeler can treat the issue in one visit, but because spiders are part of Ace’s signature service, he and his team are ready to return if need be.
“We have unlimited callbacks in our signature service,” he said. “If there’s ever a problem, we come back and take care of it at no charge.”
To learn more about our signature program and the services we offer to protect your home, contact us today.