When we were kids, we might have heard that the most venomous spider in the world is the cellar spider, or daddy longlegs as we like to call them.
The story was that they possessed the most potent venom, but alas had fangs too short or small to puncture human skin. This story was so prevalent that back in 2004 even the show Mythbusters had a daddy longlegs spider bite one of the show’s hosts to see how potent the venom was.
WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?
Daddy longlegs refer to Opiliones and Pholcidae.
Opiliones, also known as harvestmen, are an order of arachnids, but are not true spiders. They may certainly look and act like spiders to the average person, but they do not produce silk. They also don’t have fangs or a venom gland, and are not venomous at all.
Most species have exceptionally long legs (though some have short legs), and appear to have one broad oval body. Almost all species of Opiliones have a single pair of eyes oriented sideways in the middle of the head. They are typically brown in color.
Pholcidae, commonly known as cellar spiders, are true spiders. They’re able to produce silk, and use it for building webs and catching prey. They have small fangs and are venomous.
They also have exceptionally long legs, but have a more distinct separation between their cephalothorax and abdomen making them more distinguishable from Opiliones. They have 6 or 8 eyes, and are typically gray or brown in color.
HOW DANGEROUS ARE THEY?
Harvestmen do not have fangs or venom, but they do have defensive stink glands that they put to use whenever they feel threatened. They may also play dead until the threat has passed, or if grabbed, they will shed their leg or legs and run off with however many legs are left (like all arachnids, they have 8 legs. Or in their case, they start off with 8 legs at least). They are not known to carry diseases harmful to humans.
As for cellar spiders, the verdict from Mythbusters on daddy longlegs being the most venomous spider in the world is “busted” – that is, the bite from the cellar spider produced no more than a very mild, short-lived burning sensation. They are not known to carry diseases harmful to humans.
A possible explanation of why they’re thought of to be so dangerous is because they are known to hunt other highly venomous spiders like the Australian Black Widow. So if they’re able to bring down these spiders capable of killing humans, they must be dangerous. But in truth, web and wit is the key to their victory – cellar spiders are able to incapacitate these deadly spiders from a safe distance by casting silk from afar.
Of course, having an infestation of these spiders in your home can still bring trouble – while they are excellent hunters of spiders that are dangerous to humans (like the black widow and brown recluse), they are still prey for a lot of other pests that will come knocking on your door to get to this food source.
If you have an infestation of these spiders, get in touch with a professional pest control service for assistance in getting rid of them.
For more information on spiders, check out our Spider Archives!