Are Daddy Long Legs Spiders?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Key Takeaways:

  • The term “daddy long legs” can refer to different creatures depending on the context and region.
  • In some regions it refers to harvestmen, which are arachnids but not spiders.
  • In other areas it refers to crane flies, which are insects not spiders.
  • Cellar spiders are also called daddy longlegs and they are true spiders.
  • Taxonomically, only the cellar spider is a true spider of the creatures called daddy long legs.

What Are the Different Creatures Known as Daddy Long Legs?

The term “daddy long legs” is used to describe a variety of long-legged creatures, depending on the region and context. This can lead to confusion over exactly what type of organism a “daddy long legs” refers to. So what are the main creatures that get this moniker?

Harvestmen – Arachnids But Not Spiders

One type of creature commonly known as a daddy long legs is from the order Opiliones, also known as harvestmen or harvest spiders. There are over 6,500 species of harvestmen worldwide, distributed across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and various island nations.

This diverse group is part of the class Arachnida, making them close cousins to spiders. However, harvestmen differ from spiders in some key ways:

  • They have a fused body and lack a narrow waist between the cephalothorax and abdomen. Spiders have distinct, separated body segments.
  • Harvestmen do not produce silk or spin webs. Spiders are well known for using silk to build webs and other structures.
  • They have no venom, unlike many spiders. Harvestmen do not have fangs or other means to inject venom.
  • Their legs attach to the underside of their body rather than the upper surface like in spiders.

So while harvestmen belong to the arachnid family, they are a distinct order that separated evolutionarily from true spiders long ago. Calling harvestmen “daddy long legs spiders” is taxonomically incorrect, but their long legs and spider-like appearance cause this common confusion.

Are Daddy Long Legs Spiders?

Crane Flies – True Flies Not Arachnids

In some parts of the world, including Britain and parts of North America, daddy long legs refers to crane flies rather than arachnids. Crane flies are a family of flies belonging to the order Diptera, which includes mosquitoes, gnats, and other common flies.

Crane flies resemble large mosquitos, with long legs and a slender body. With their long legs and ability to hang upside down, they do somewhat resemble spiders. However, they have only a single pair of wings rather than four like spiders, and they have large halteres (small knobbed structures) behind their wings which provide stability in flight.

There are over 15,000 known species of crane flies. Like all true flies, crane flies go through a complete metamorphosis with egg, larval, pupal, and adult life stages. The larvae live in moist soil or decaying plant matter. As flies rather than arachnids, crane flies share no relation to spiders. But their spindly legs cause them to inherit the nickname daddy long legs in some regions.

Cellar Spiders – True Spiders

Perhaps the most accurate use of the term daddy long legs refers to cellar spiders in the family Pholcidae. With their tiny body and disproportionately long, spindly legs, cellar spiders resemble what many picture as a typical daddy long legs.

Cellar spiders fall under the order Araneae, making them true spiders. They share the same characteristics that technically define what a spider is:

  • Cellar spiders have two body segments, the cephalothorax and abdomen, connected by a narrow pedicel waist.
  • They have eight legs attached to the cephalothorax. Their legs can be up to 50 times longer than their body.
  • They produce silk from spinnerets and use it to build irregular, tangled webs. The chaos web of a cellar spider helps it capture prey and defend itself.
  • As true spiders, cellar spiders have fangs and venom with which they immobilize prey. Their venom is not considered medically significant to humans.

With close to 1,000 species worldwide, cellar spiders are found on every continent except Antarctica. Their long legs, web-making skills, and venom clearly make cellar spiders true spiders. So if you want an arachnologically correct daddy long legs, this group of spiders fits the bill.

Are Any Daddy Long Legs Spiders Dangerous to Humans?

Daddy long legs are not considered dangerous to humans, regardless of which type you are referring to. Here’s a look at why these creatures are harmless:

Harvestmen Cannot Harm People

Harvestmen do not have venom or any means to bite or sting humans. Their chelicerae (mouthparts) are weak and not suited for biting. At most, they could give a pinch with their claws that might be briefly painful. But they have no toxic effects and their claws do not easily break human skin. Their behavior is docile as well – harvestmen are solitary and prefer to avoid contact with humans. So the daddy long legs known as harvestmen pose no realistic danger.

Crane Flies Are Not Toxic

Crane flies lack stingers, fangs, or toxic secretions that could harm people. Their mouthparts are designed for sucking liquid, not for biting. The only conceivable way a crane fly could inflict pain would be by pinching delicate skin with their legs. Overall, crane flies prefer to avoid human interaction. And with no venom or toxic effects, crane flies called daddy long legs present no safety concern.

Cellar Spiders Have Weak Venom

Cellar spiders do have venom to subdue small prey. But spider experts agree their venom has a low toxicity that is inconsequential to human health. There are no documented cases of serious injuries from a daddy longlegs spider bite. Their jaws and fangs are small and weak, limiting their ability to break through skin and inject significant venom. Plus, cellar spiders are unlikely to bite humans unless severely provoked. So while they are equipped with venom, the daddy longlegs known as cellar spiders pose negligible risk to people.

In summary, harvestmen, crane flies, and cellar spiders are all harmless creatures despite their long legs and tendency to freak people out. No fatalities, significant bites, or toxic effects have been attributed to any of the organisms called daddy long legs. They can be handled safely without concern of danger or medical risks in healthy individuals. Still, it’s best not to touch or closely interact with them to avoid stressing or harming these creatures in their natural environments.

What Distinguishes Cellar Spiders from Other Spiders?

As the only true spider of the daddy longlegs group, how do cellar spiders compare and contrast to other spiders? Here are the main distinguishing features:

Leg Length Relative to Body Size

Cellar spiders have disproportionately long legs relative to their small body size. Their legspan can be 30-50 times larger than their entire body length. Most other spider species have legs around 4-5 times their body length. So cellar spiders stand out with by far the longest legs compared to body size.

Flimsy and Delicate Legs

The cellar spider’s elongated legs are exceptionally thin, flimsy, and delicate. Their legs are composed of soft segments prone to breaking off. Other spiders typically have more robust, thicker legs in proportion to their body. Daddy longlegs’ exceptionally skinny legs aid their erratic movements to evade predators.

Large Spacing Between Eyes

Most spiders have a close-set grouping of six or eight eyes on their cephalothorax. Cellar spiders have six tiny eyes as well, but they are spaced widely apart on their heads. This gives them a unique facial appearance.

Irregular Web Structure

Webs spun by cellar spiders lack orderly patterns and symmetry. Their webs consist of sparse, crisscrossing silk threads strewn haphazardly across surfaces. Other spiders often build ornate webs of complex, geometric designs. The chaotic web of the cellar spider allows it to sense vibrations from all directions to detect prey.

Habitat Preferences

True to their name, cellar spiders primarily dwell in dark, damp places like basements, cellars, and crawl spaces. They also live in sheds, barns, and similar indoor locations. Most other spiders inhabit outdoor environments like gardens, forests, and grasslands.

So with their spindly legs, flimsy build, scattered eyes, tangled webs, and preference for indoor spaces, cellar spiders have a distinctive look and lifestyle apart from most other spiders that may share the daddy longlegs name.

What Is the Average Life Span of Daddy Long Legs?

The daddy longlegs’ lifespan can range substantially depending on whether we are talking about cellar spiders, harvestmen, or crane flies:

Harvestmen: 1 year

The harvestmen considered daddy longlegs in some areas typically live for just one year. They hatch from eggs as nymphs in the spring, mature to adults in the summer, mate in the fall, and die by winter. Certain species may survive a second winter season, stretching their lifespan to around 16-18 months. But overall, harvestmen live fast and die young.

Crane Flies: 10 days to 2 weeks

Crane flies exist as adults for just a brief period of their life cycle. Most species survive for a mere 10 to 14 days after emerging from their pupal casing before dying. Their only purpose as winged adults is to find a mate and reproduce. The long-legged adult stage is the shortest part of the crane fly life cycle.

Cellar Spiders: 1 to 2 years

Cellar spiders tend to live longer than their daddy longlegs cousins. In optimal indoor settings, they can survive for up to 2 years. Male cellar spiders may only live for several months once reaching adulthood. But female daddy longlegs spiders can persist for 1 to 2 years in the right habitat. Their long, delicate legs and soft bodies still cause high mortality though.

So of the organisms called daddy long legs, the cellar spider enjoys the longest time as adults – up to 2 years. Harvestmen and crane flies only live for months or weeks after maturing from their youthful stages. But no version of the daddy longlegs lasts very long in their final form with those elongated legs.

How Many Legs Do Daddy Long Legs Actually Have?

This depends on the particular organism:

  • Harvestmen have eight legs, like all arachnids.
  • Crane flies have six legs, like all true flies.
  • Cellar spiders have eight legs, like all spiders.

So harvestmen and cellar spiders have eight legs, fitting their classification as arachnids. Crane flies’ six legs reflect their status as insects in the order Diptera.

This makes it easy to discern between the non-spider daddy longlegs and the true spider. Harvestmen and cellar spiders have eight legs – if you see one with only six legs, it must be a different creature entirely. All spiders, including daddy longlegs, will have eight legs.

Can Daddy Long Legs Spin Webs?

The web-making ability of daddy long legs depends on the type:

Harvestmen cannot spin webs.

Harvestmen do not have silk glands or spinnerets to extrude silk. Without silk, they cannot spin webs or other silk structures. They are the only arachnids that lack silk-producing ability.

Crane flies do not spin webs.

Like all flies, crane flies do not create or use webs to catch prey or for shelter. No true flies have natural web-making capabilities.

Cellar spiders make irregular, messy webs.

Cellar spiders do spin silk and construct webs. But rather than orderly, geometric webs, cellar spiders build loose, scattered, untidy webs with disorganized silk threads stretching between surfaces. These chaotic webs allow cellar spiders to sense vibrations from all directions to detect prey.

So of the daddy longlegs varieties, only cellar spiders can generate silk and spin webs. Spinning disorganized, decentralised webs helps these spiders thrive as predators in their preferred indoor habitats. The ability to make webs, even messy ones, is one of the trademarks of cellar spiders that distinguishes them from other daddy long legs.

Do Daddy Long Legs Eat Mosquitoes?

The daddy longlegs’ role as mosquito predators depends on the type:

Harvestmen do not typically eat mosquitoes.

The small mouths and chewing appendages of harvestmen are best suited for eating deceased organic matter like decaying plant or animal material. They do sometimes eat tiny insects but are not known for actively hunting mosquitoes. Their mouths are likely too small to capture most mosquitoes.

Crane flies do not eat mosquitoes.

Adult crane flies feed only on nectar or not at all, living off fat reserves from their youth. They do not have biting or chewing mouthparts capable of capturing mosquitoes. Crane fly larvae eat decomposing plant matter so they also do not target mosquitoes.

Cellar spiders prey on mosquitoes.

The venom and web-making abilities of cellar spiders allow them to trap and eat mosquitoes as well as other small insects. Mosquitoes become stuck in their chaotic webs and are then bitten and injected with venom. Cellar spiders will readily consume any insect unlucky enough to blunder into their web, including pest mosquitoes.

So when it comes to daddy longlegs, the cellar spider is the only one well equipped as a mini-exterminator to capture mosquitoes via its sloppy webs. Their affinity for indoor spaces even puts them in prime position to control mosquitoes that sneak inside. Let some daddy longlegs spiders occupy your basement or attic and they might help curtail those annoying bloodsuckers!

Can Daddy Long Legs Breed with Other Spiders?

The potential for daddy longlegs spiders to breed with other spider species depends on what specific type we are discussing:

Harvestmen cannot breed with spiders.

Harvestmen are not true spiders, so they cannot interbreed with cellar spiders or any other kind of spider. Their genetic separation is simply too vast after evolving along different lines for millions of years. Harvestmen can only reproduce with other harvestmen within their order.

Crane flies cannot breed with spiders.

Crane flies are flies, not even arachnids. There is absolutely no chance of genetic compatibility with spiders. They are about as far removed evolutionarily from spiders as organisms can be.

Cellar spiders can breed with some other spiders.

Cellar spiders fall within the same class (Arachnida) as true spiders, but in a different family (Pholcidae). They can potentially breed with some other spider families, but this may be unlikely due to differences in mating behaviors and signals. Some reports indicate cellar spiders can interbreed with certain close relatives such as leaf litter spiders. But reproduction outside their family would be rare, if possible at all.

In summary, harvestmen and crane flies cannot ever interbreed with spiders, but cellar spiders may be able to in very limited circumstances with their most closely related fellow spider species. But generally, daddy longlegs will reproduce with their own kind through typical mating habits.

Do Daddy Long Legs Have Wings?

Once again, it depends on the type of creature in question:

  • Harvestmen do not have wings. No arachnids have the ability to fly.
  • Crane flies do have wings. They have one pair of narrow wings used for flying.
  • Cellar spiders do not have wings. No spiders can fly or have wing anatomy.

So the only daddy longlegs variety equipped with wings are crane flies. Their single set of large wings allows them to fly moderate distances as part of their mating ritual and dispersal. Harvestmen and cellar spiders, as arachnids, have no capacity for flight and never grow wings. A daddy longlegs with wings must be a crane fly, not one of its leggy arachnid counterparts.

Do Daddy Long Legs Have Venom?

The presence of venom in daddy longlegs depends on the variety:

Harvestmen do not have venom.

Harvestmen completely lack venom glands and cannot deliver venomous bites. At most, their tiny pinching mouthparts might cause a minor nuisance but no true envenomation.

Crane flies do not have venom.

As true flies, crane flies also lack venom glands or biting mouthparts to deliver venom. They feed by sucking liquid, not biting flesh, so they have no use for venom.

Cellar spiders do have mild venom.

Cellar spiders have tiny fangs connected to venom glands that produce mild neurotoxic venom. They can bite to inject this venom, though their small fangs make this unlikely and ineffective against humans. The venom is used to subdue small prey caught in their webs or for defense.

So of the daddy longlegs group, only the cellar spider possesses venom, though it is considered relatively harmless to humans. The other arthropods covered by this moniker are non-venomous and harmless.


The tangled tale of the daddy longlegs showcases the complexities of common names used in different regions for taxonomically distinct creatures. While usually referring to an arthropod of some sort with elongated legs, “daddy longlegs” can mean harvestmen, crane flies, or cellar spiders depending on the context. Cellar spiders alone represent true spiders in this mix of arachnids, insects, and close cousins. Though feared by some, none of these organisms pose a real hazard to humans, whether it’s the venomless harvestmen, non-biting crane flies, or mild-venomed cellar spiders. So daddy longlegs make for an interesting entomological and etymological case of mistaken identity, but not a dangerous one.

About The Author

Scroll to Top