What are Daddy Long Legs (DLL)? Do they belong to the spider family? The answer is yes. And no. DLL's are properly known as Harvestmen (Opiliones) which is a group of arachnids known for their long delicate legs and oval bodies. There are 6,300 species in this group. Harvestmen are also referred to as DDL's but the term is rather ambiguous because it is used to refer to several other groups of arthropods that are not closely related to the harvestmen. Two such species are the cellar spider and the adult crane fly.
In many aspects, harvestmen resemble spiders but they differ in several significant ways. Spiders have a body that is made up of two distinct parts while the harvestman has a body that is fused together, resembling a single, oval structure. Too, harvestmen lack a silk gland, meaning that they cannot create webs. They also lack venom and fangs; two other characteristics of spiders. Another big difference is how they eat their food. Harvestmen take their food directly into their mouths and eat it in chunks. Arachnids, however, must first regurgitate digestive juices which dissolve their prey, resulting in liquefied food. A straw, anyone?
While harvestmen are mostly nocturnal, there are several species that are active during the day. Their coloration is muted, mostly grey, black, or brown in color; this helps them to blend in with their surroundings (and makes it way more difficult for me to see them). The species that are active during the day tend to be brighter in color with patterns of red, yellow. and black.
Harvestmen are gregarious little creatures and often seek shelter together. Scientists think this helps them to control temperatures and humidity, as well as provide them with a more stable place to rest. Harvestmen secrete defensive chemicals that, together, can offer more protection for the entire group. And when the group is disturbed, moving en masse will often be intimidating or confusing to their predators.
Their body size ranges from a few millimeters to a few centimeters in diameter while the legs on many species are several times the length of their body. But then, a few species have short little legs...are they called Daddy Short Legs? Probably not. Kind of like us frogs, harvestmen can be found on every continent except Antarctica. And like us, they inhabit a variety of terrestrial habitats; grasslands, wetlands, forests, mountains, and caves. I'm sure you humans know they like to live in the same places you do, too! "Most species of harvestmen are omnivorous or scavengers. They feed on insects, fungi, plants, and dead organisms. Species that hunt do so using an ambush behavior to startle their prey before capturing it."
That's probably way more than you wanted to know about Daddy Long Legs, but I do hope you found it interesting and, perhaps, learned a few new things about my favorite food. Dharma frog will be here tomorrow so it's time I hopped off to plan my breakfast menu. Until we meet up again, I wish you all