One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Is a daddy-long-legs a spider?
There isn’t a simple answer to this question, because it all depends on which variety of world English you speak. There are three completely different creatures which go by the name of daddy-long-legs: in British English, daddy-long-legs is another word for a crane fly, but in American English, it’s an alternative name for a harvestman. If you speak Australian English, then daddy-long-legs is a type of spider. This spider is also known as daddy long-legs in North America and elsewhere.
Both the harvestman and the daddy-long-legs spider are arachnids, but only the latter is actually a spider. The crane fly isn’t closely related to spiders: it’s an insect. What do they have in common? All three are arthropods (a large category of invertebrate animals which includes insects, spiders, and crustaceans), and as their name suggests, they have extremely long legs in relation to their bodies. Here’s a brief description of each one.
- Crane fly: a delicate two-winged fly with six very long dangly legs. It belongs to the Tipulidae family, which includes many genera and species, especially the large and common Tipula maxima. They’re nocturnal insects and attracted to light, so you’ll often find them flittering around your house on summer or autumn evenings.
- Harvestman: an arachnid of the order Opiliones, with a globular body and eight very long thin legs. Although harvestmen are related to spiders (they’re all members of the class Arachnida), harvestmen don’t spin webs and they don’t have venom-producing fangs.
- Daddy-long-legs spider: a spider of the Pholcidae family, Pholcus phalangioides, with a small body and eight very long thin legs. Spiders in the Pholcidae family are commonly known as cellar spiders or tangle-web spiders: as these names suggest, they live in buildings and spin rather untidy, irregular webs.
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