Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Daddy Longlegs

Night before last, I saw one of those huge mosquito things buzzing around in my bedroom and by morning it was floating dead in the toilet. At some point my little bride killed the creature and gave him a burial at sea of sorts. Except for the burial part. I guess she didn't think he was worth spending the resources of a special flush.

Or maybe, like the cat, she wanted to show off her trophy.

Whatever the reason, she has always had a healthy fear of these "mosquito hawks" as she calls them. Matter of fact, that's all I've ever heard anyone call them around here. Got me wondering. Just how dangerous are these giant bloodsuckers?

Google is my friend.

Turns out, in most parts of the world, the mosquito hawk is a term for a dragonfly. So, what the heck is this dude in my toilet? It's a crane fly. And they don't suck blood. They don't even bite. They probably don't do anything other than fly around looking creepy.

And a popular nickname for them is "daddy longlegs."

Well, just to show you how messed up we are around here, our daddy longlegs is a big honking spider. Or he just looks big because he has legs about 3 inches long each, but he does have a body smaller than a dime in the center of 'em. The bride pointed out that the proper name is actually Grandaddy Longlegs. But we mostly just call them daddy.

Most of you know that the daddy longlegs spider is just about the most poisonous spider in the world, if not the most poisonous one. Luckily their mouth is too small to bite you so you're safe. At least that's what I've always been told.

Turns out, they ain't poisonous. Not even a little. Hell, they ain't even spiders. Oh, they're arachnids, allright, but they're not spiders. Spiders have two part bodies. Did you know that? And these dudes have a single blob for a body. They are pretty harmless, eating fruit and other bugs and sometimes each other if they get really desperate.

And, it's not really a daddy longlegs. It's a "Harvestman."

But it turns out, there is a daddy longlegs spider. It's not the one crawling up the pine tree behind my house. This one is in my house!

The real daddy longlegs spider is actually a pholcidae spider, or common house spider. To me it's the creepiest of all, but I never called it a daddy longlegs. Or grandaddy longlegs. Until now.

These dudes are venomous, like most spiders, but the venom is so weak that it doesn't even hurt most other bugs.

I know you all are confused at this point so I'm going to put a picture here to illustrate the difference. There will be a test on Wednesday...

left to right, Crane Fly, Pholcidae Spider, Harvestman. Image was lifted from courtesy of The Burke Museum


kaylee said...

here in the bluegrass state we call mosquito hawks may flies , why we call them may fly is beyond me, they are around in november as well. we also call those big ol' spiders grandaddy longlegs. what ever you do , don't mash one with your bare hand , they stink like shit

Daniel said...

Not all of the opiliones (that's the right name of the daddy longlegs) stink like shit for example the one it's show in the image don't stink. The stinking ones have big bodies and short legs with spines. The pholcidae spiders are good in your house they eat mosquitos and flys and are harmless because your mouth parts are too small to hurt our skin. Curiosity about mayflies they can be in the larva state for years but the adult ones (that the ones we see) can last only a few hours and it's call mayflies because are more abundant in may