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Harvestmen – a.k.a Daddy-Longlegs

Although they belong to the same class as spiders, harvestmen or daddy-longlegs as they are more commonly called are not spiders at all.  These arachnids lack both fangs and venom.  Yes, that alone dismisses the urban myth that they are the most poisonous spiders in the world but have fangs that are too small to puncture skin.  Harvestmen also lack spinnerets which enable spiders to produce silk for web making.  Their mouthparts more closely resemble those of crabs or scorpions, holding their prey while they eat.  Adult harvestmen have bodies that range in size from 1/16 to ½ inch in length.  They are oval in shape and of course, as one of their common names states, long legs.  Colors tend to be browns, grays and black; however, certain species may also have brighter colors including shades of green.  Much the way insects use antennae as sensory structures; harvestmen use their secondary legs to navigate through their environment.

Harvestmen have a lifespan of roughly one to two years.  Females lay their eggs in soil, under stones or inside of cracks and crevices found in wood.  Eggs are laid in the fall and will hatch the following spring.  Females tend to have larger bodies than males, but males have longer legs than the females do.  In a similar manner to the way that a lizard can break off a portion of their tail to escape a predator, harvestmen will break off legs to escape.  In addition, they have another defense mechanism.  Harvestmen produce a powerful odor that deters many predators.  Due to their broad diet habits, harvestmen are typically considered to be beneficial. They consume garden and plant pests such as aphids, as well as spiders, insects and even bird droppings as they scavenge.  Harvestmen are more uncommon than spiders and/or insects inside of homes; however they can usually be easily found on the exterior of the home.  The name harvestman comes from their tendencies to gather in large clusters on trees and homes around harvesting time in the fall.  They do not damage structures in any way and are simply considered a nuisance during these congregation periods.  Damp crawlspaces, unfinished basements and garages are also common for harvestman activity.  Control measures are typically not requested due to their tendency to stay outdoors; however, treatments are available in the event that homes have a persistent issue.