25 August 2010

This is not a spider

While researching the post below this, I wandered into the "flat earth" realm, then to a page of "common misconceptions" where I found the notation that the Harvestman (shown above) is not a spider.

I grew up calling these "daddy longlegs" - a name also applied to cellar spiders.  But it was harvestmen we always saw (and tried to avoid stepping on), and which we still see on a routine basis when gardening or working in the woods.

They are not spiders.  They are arachnids, but are of a different order from true spiders.

You learn something every day.

Addendum:  And this is cool...
The legs continue to twitch after they are detached. This is because there are 'pacemakers' located in the ends of the first long segment (femur) of their legs. These pacemakers send signals via the nerves to the muscles to extend the leg and then the leg relaxes between signals. While some harvestman's legs will twitch for a minute, other kinds have been recorded to twitch for up to an hour. The twitching has been hypothesized as a means to keep the attention of a predator while the harvestman escapes.


  1. I knew that, actually. Strangely. At least I have a scientific basis for saying that I hate spiders, but don't mind those guys.

  2. I knew that, too. To be honest, I've only known it for a year or so, but I did know it.

  3. Interesting that you call these daddy long legs... here I've only ever heard that used to describe crane fly.

  4. If you look closely, their segments are tightly joined, making them look almost more like crabs than spiders. They don't have the "bag" at the back like spiders (mostly) do.

    Anon, it's along the same lines as "lumber". In the US it means wood for construction. Divided by a common language, you know?

  5. I have arachnophobia, and these things freak me out worse than tarantulas! I was tormented by them at my uncle's in NC, and often see them in MI. Luckily I don't have these down here in FL. I do, however, have to deal with wolf spiders down here. They love my place. The other day, a brown widow spider took care of a wolf spider for me. I knew there was a reason that I let the brown widow's live around here!

  6. Check out Sue Hubbell's "Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs." She's got a whole chapter on Daddy Longlegs and how they're not spiders.

  7. I'm with anon, here in England, these are harvestmen, (or cyclops, I think they only have one eye, am I wrong?, I've never really thought much about them) and "daddy-longlegs" is always a crane fly.

  8. This post is three years too late, but years ago I read somewhere that they eat fatty meats or something, so I gave one some bologna and that thing ate that thing!

    1. I think almost all spiders are carnivores.

    2. This post is NINE years too late! :)

      WAY back around 1986 or so, my wife & lived in a first-floor apartment. One day she fixed spaghetti with meat sauce. Outside the sliding glass doors, we saw a harvestman traipsing about. My wife picked up a bit of meat from the meat sauce, put it out on the cement just outside the doors, and we waited.

      The harvestman found the bit of meat, PICKED IT UP, and walked away with it.

      Two days later, my jaw snapped back into place.


      P.S.: Can't believe the spell-checker for the text boxes doesn't know "harvestman".

    3. When my son was in elementary school he came home one day and told us that he learned that these creatures were "filled with acid", and "if you eat one you die". I think he learned that they are highly venomous (to their prey), but I still thanked him for warning me to never eat one.

  9. We knew them as daddy-longlegs in the boarding school dorm, where we tossed them over the stalls on our friends in the women's bathrooms.


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