Homeless in Vancouver: Who’s your daddy (longlegs)?

Three kinds of insects are often referred to as a “daddy longlegs”. One kind of crane fly and one kind of spider. The third insect looks like a spider but is actually in a class by itself.

What I recognize as a “daddy longlegs” is a type of arachnid distinct from spiders and properly called an Opilione. In the U.K. and North America, they go by a few “longlegs” nicknames but elsewhere they are commonly known as “harvestmen”.

I only ever see these harvestmen in the fall

This “daddy” was actually sitting peacefully on the side of cargo container.
Stanley Q. Woodvine

Opiliones are very old arachnids, going back over 400 million years in the fossil record; yet they have received surprisingly little scientific scrutiny.

That’s what what you get when you pose utterly no threat or bother to human beings—you get ignored, relatively speaking.

A lot is still known about the morphology and habits of Opiliones. For instance, they have no venom sacs, cannot bite people, and do not spin webs. Their eyes are crude light-sensing organs that cannot form pictures and they are omnivorous, making up a tiny part of nature’s clean-up crew.

They live for about one year, and although not much is known about their mating habits, it is known that most species of Opiliones lay their eggs in the autumn and the eggs don’t hatch until the following spring.

There are thought to be about 6,500 species of worldwide and about 20 kinds of Opilione are known to live in British Columbia.

I was taught as a child that you should never kill daddy longlegs “spiders” because they are both harmless and a benefit.

They’re also pretty cool looking.

Bulbous steam boiler body and those amazing legs; ball-jointed and so long and geometrically graceful, terminating in what one can only call spring suspension.

The whole “virtually unchanged for 400 million year” thing works well and gives them a wonderful retro Victorian look, at least it does when they’re tiny.

Scaled up 500 times and I imagine they would look very intimidating. Very War of the Worlds.

Oh, and I found another ladybug

This one doesn’t fly worth a darn but it sure can jump!

Stanley Q. Woodvine
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