The Truth About Granddaddy Longlegs

Monday, June 23, 2008 - by Kyle Waggener, Chattanooga Nature Center

Are Granddaddy-longlegs the most poisonous spider in the world but their fangs are too small to bite us?

Actually, granddaddy-longlegs are not spiders. They are a type of arachnid, along with spiders, ticks, mites, and scorpions but they belong to a group called harvestmen not spiders. Also they are usually called “daddy-long-legs” in field guides not “granddaddy-longlegs” and are more appropriately called harvestmen.

There are several differences between harvestmen and spiders. Spiders have two body parts, a cephalothorax (head and thorax fused together) and abdomen. Harvestmen have one body part similar to ticks and mites. The cephalothorax and abdomen are fused together so harvestmen lack the narrow “waist” that spiders have.

Harvestmen have two eyes. Nearly all spiders have eight. Harvestmen don’t have silk glands or spinnerets so they can’t spin a web like most spiders do. If you see a harvestmen in a web, it is soon to be a meal for a spider.

Harvestmen do not have venom glands or fangs, which all spiders have.

Spiders feed on live animals that they paralyze or kill with their venomous fangs.

Harvestmen eat decomposing plant and animal matter mostly, with an occasional slow-moving insect as part of their diet.

It is more correct to use the term venomous than poisonous to refer to spiders. Poison is ingested and venom is injected. In poisonous animals, toxic chemicals are stored in the body tissues and are used as a defense to prevent the animal from being eaten. Venom is usually used as a means to obtain prey, with the venomous animal injecting the toxic chemicals into the body of another animal. So spiders are venomous not poisonous. Predators can eat spiders, even brown recluse spiders, without ill effects.

So, even though “daddy-long-legs” aren’t the most “poisonous” arachnid in the world, they are still a very valuable part of the ecosystem. Maybe now more people can enjoy letting one crawl around on their hand without any fear of venomous fangs. If you really think about it, half of them are really “mommy-long-legs” anyway!

Claire Henley: Adventures West (Surprise Guests At The Forestry Camp)

(Editor's Note: Chattanoogan Claire Henley started an adventure of a lifetime on the remote Pacific Crest Trail in April. Along the way, she had many adventures and found herself a husband named Big Spoon). “When the road gets dark/ And you can no longer see/ Just let my love throw a spark/ And have a little faith in me.” -John Hiatt, “Have a Little Faith in Me” It was ... (click for more)

Claire Henley: Adventures West (Through My Eyes - A Perspective From Caleb Miller "Big Spoon")

(Editor's Note: Chattanoogan Claire Henley started an adventure of a lifetime on the remote Pacific Crest Trail in April. Along the way, she had many adventures and found herself a husband named Big Spoon). Please enjoy this special post written by Clair's husband, Caleb Miller (aka Big Spoon). “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself ... (click for more)

Planning Commission Votes 6-5 To Reject 7-Story Apartment Building On Cowart Street

After lengthy discussion on Monday before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, historical neighborhood advocates won a victory in the Southside area when the commission narrowly rejected a request to allow developers to build a seven-story apartment building on the 1200 block of Cowart Street.   The Belle Investment Co. & BYD Coward, ... (click for more)

Charges Upgraded Against Avery To Murder After Victim of Chair Leg Attack At Moccasin Bend Dies

Charges have been upgraded to murder against Leviticus Avery, 37, after a man he allegedly attacked with a chair leg has died. Avery initially was charged with aggravated assault and attempted first-degree murder in the incident last Thursday at the Moccasin Bend Mental Health facility. Kevin Green, 38, remained in critical condition until he died. He was struck in ... (click for more)

Ole Man River Just Keeps Rollin

Citizens are hearing yet another new chapter in Chattanooga’s 21st Century Riverfront concrete repair saga. It seems it will require more repair, more delays and more tax dollars to do it. When will it end? Construction of the Riverfront concrete structures began in 2003. Before it was finished, designers, engineers, contractors, Public Works officials, Mayor Littlefield and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It Was Our Tool Shed

Some said the huge beams had been soaking in creosote for two or three years when the men finally stacked them to dry. They were long, about 20 feet each, and thick – maybe eight inches. I remember they were 14 inches wide but the biggest thing I remember was that it was the ugliest lumber I ever saw. They cured the beams for one entire hot summer in the Tool Shed, a huge building ... (click for more)