Daddy Long-Legs

dsc_00270005-2These critters are a staple of childhood natural adventures throughout Ontario–and beyond, too, I’d imagine. The Daddy Long Legs stilts along like a drunk robot on those proposterously long legs. I remember, at my grandparents’ cottage, picking them up and tossing them in the creek to watch them go over the waterfall. Cruel, yes, but I’ve made up for my early eco-sins with a lifetime of environmental activism. Or so I hope.

I know it looks like a spider. But it’s not. The lack of separate body parts and having only two eyes instead of eight gives it away, though you’d have to get pretty close to one to tell. The Daddy Long Legs, more correctly known as “harvestmen,” is an arachnid but is, apparently, not even an insect.

Moreover, because it’s not a spider, it’s not venemous, contrary to reputation; and two of its legs aren’t even legs, but long leg-like sense organs that feel and taste the ground in front in order to navigate terrain. And yes, their legs do separate very easily but they do NOT grow back.

Daddy Long-Legs, either due to their appearance or their reserved habits, being primarily nocturnal and fairly shy, are not the subject of much in the way of folklore, literature or poetry. One notable exception is an early twentieth century children’s novel called Daddy-Long-Legs about an orphaned girl with a mysterious benefactor who sends her to private school. As with much early twentieth century literature about plucky girl orphans, it is both derided as mawkishly sentimental and a milestone of literature unjustly ignored on the basis of its protagonist.

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