Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Daddy Longlegs—Are they Poisonous?

It is often said that Daddy Longlegs are the most poisonous spiders in existence. The lore regarding this bug continues to state that the only thing saving us is the fact that its fangs are too short to penetrate human skin. Is that True?

Actually, Daddy Longlegs is the name associated with more than one bug. There is a Daddy Longlegs, and then there is a Daddy Longlegs Spider. The bug most correctly called Daddy Longlegs is in the Order known as Opiliones. They are characterized by having one basic body segment, and all eight legs attach to the pill-like body segment. These insects do not have venom glands, fangs or any other mechanism for chemically subduing their food. Therefore, they do not have any poison.

Another creature often called Daddy Longlegs really is a spider. It belongs to the family, Pholcidae. There is no reference to any pholcid spider biting a human and causing any detrimental reaction. So the myth of them being especially poisonous is just that: a myth. There is no scientific basis for the supposition that they are deadly poisonous. As for the short fangs, it is true that they really are short, which in archaeological terms is called “uncate.” However, the Brown Recluse spiders also have an uncate fang structure, and they obviously are able to bite humans.

Sometimes, myths just seem to never end. The next time you see a Daddy Longlegs, don’t run in fear. You’re more likely to hurt yourself by tripping on a rock than you are to get hurt from the bite of his innocent little bug.

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