Nature Notebook – Daddy Longlegs
Daddy longlegs, often mistaken for a spider, are in a family of animals called harvestmen. They are an order of arachnids called Opiliones with almost 7,000 species worldwide. Unlike spiders they only have one pill-like body segment, two eyes, do not spin webs, and are not venomous making them harmless to humans.
This week, while picking black raspberries in the backyard, I observed harvestmen harvesting some of berries as well. In every patch I visited, harvestmen were feeding on some of the ripest berries. Of course, there were enough to go around, but it made me curious about their feeding habits.
They feed on a variety of food such as dead insects, rotting fruit, mushrooms, animal droppings, and some will also catch live insects and other prey. This week I also witnessed a group of harvestmen feeding on common milkweed flowers. They will eat the dead plant material, suck up the nectar and plant juices, and feed on the insects and spiders found on the milkweed.
Harvestmen get their name from being found in high numbers during harvest time in late summer and early fall. They only live about one year and are found on every continent except Antarctica, preferring damp habitats.