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Daddy Longlegs feeds on a stink bug

“Stop the presses,” Nicholas (Copper Hill Images) e-mailed me, “more photos to follow!!!” If you read my last post, Nicholas was the one who sent me all the cool pictures of the praying mantis eating the stink bug. When I received this e-mail, I was really excited to see what else he had found that was so interesting. I was pretty sure it would have something to do with stink bugs and I was right!

A daddy longlegs feeding on a stink bug.

A daddy longlegs feeds on a stink bug.

He proceeded to send me 4 photos of a Daddy Longlegs feasting on a stink bug! Well who would have thought that a daddy longlegs would eat a stink bug, let alone be able to catch one? BUT, did the daddy longlegs actually catch the stink bug he was eating? Good question!

Being a biologist at heart, I began to do some research on these long-legged critters that I used to love watching as a kid. I came up with some interesting trivia!

Did you know?

Apparently, there is a common myth floating around that: “Daddy longlegs are one of the most poisonous spiders, but their fangs are too short to bite humans.” True? NO, definitely not!

There are two very different critters that are referred to as “daddy longlegs”; the one that I think of as a “daddy longlegs” (also called harvestmen) which is NOT a spider but a member of the Order Opiliones and the “daddy longlegs spider” (also called a cellar spider) which IS a true spider in the Order Araneae. Here is an example of a common name being attached to two very different critters. This happens all the time in horticulture, too, which is why at Viette’s we refer to all plants by their botanical name. It helps avoid confusion.

A daddy longlegs spider

A daddy longlegs spider or cellar spider on my ceiling at home. Note the longer 2-part body.

Anyway, true daddy longlegs or harvestmen have a small oval body with 8 very long legs. They differ from spiders in that their body is not divided. The body of true spiders is divided into two separate parts, the cephalothorax and the abdomen. In harvestmen, these parts have been fused creating their characteristic pill-shaped body. They also have only 2 eyes (at most) and don’t have silk glands or venom glands.

True spiders have 8 eyes which are found on the cephalothorax and 8 legs which are attached to the cephalothorax. They also have both venom glands and silk glands.

The “daddy longlegs spiders” or cellar spiders make webs of silk and catch small insects which they subdue with venom injected through short fangs. They feed by sucking the fluid from the bodies of their prey. There is no evidence that their venom is harmful to humans.

Daddy longlegs feeds on a stink bug

This Daddy-O is really chowing down! Yum!

True “daddy longlegs” or harvestmen are typically not hunters but they will sometimes wait in ambush for small soft bodied insects which they catch and consume. They do not have venom glands or fangs and are definitely not deadly to humans! Mostly, they are scavengers and the main part of their diet consists of dead organisms, decaying plant material, and fungi. They are commonly found in woodland areas.

Another interesting tidbit is that, unlike true spiders that typically only suck the fluids from their prey, these guys can consume small chunks of food. So it seems that this stink bug was most likely already dead and the daddy longlegs was just cleaning up the aftermath. Question answered.

You learn something new everyday, that’s what makes life interesting!

Okay enough about stinky stink bugs – but these photos from Nicholas were too cool to not share! Next time I’ll talk about something beautiful from the garden – I promise!

Until then – Happy Gardening!

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