Old Wives Tales Debunked: Is the Daddy-Longlegs Really Poisonous?


This issue, our favourite old wife Alison Lee investigates the myth behind daddy-longlegs’ supposed venomWhat do Brian Cowen and a daddy-longlegs have in common? Their long, slender limbs? Nope. Their annoying habit of flying into your room when the lights are on and crashing into your lightbulb? Wrong again. They do have one shared experience: they have both had bad things said about them in the media. However, the humble daddy-longlegs appears to have more of a case for libel than Cowen does.

Rumour has it that this animal is actually so full of venom that it could kill a human. However, its mouth is supposed to be too weak to actually inject the venom through the skin.

Is this actually true? Has evolution messed up so badly that it would endow an animal with venom to defend itself against predators but with no to way to use it? This is an entirely silly, made-up and ludicrous lie. Feel free to point and laugh at anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. Ridicule their ignorance in the field of entomology.

There are many creatures out there referred to as daddy-longlegs; Pholcus phalangioides or the ‘long-legged celler spider,’ along with members of the arachnid family known as Opiliones. The same myth is told about these guys, that they possess deadly poison but no biting ability. Variations of this myth will say the creature has no teeth. Once again, the same story is indeed just a myth.

The cellar spider is indeed venomous and the fangs of some species can penetrate human skin. However, the venom is practically harmless to humans, producing nothing more than a mild burning sensation. Members of the Opiliones spider family are, like the cranefly, entirely harmless, non-venomous and do not bite.

So that’s that. Where did this bizarre myth come from? Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Ireland is somewhat lacking in interesting wildlife and by interesting, I mean poisonous, scaly, creepy-crawly animals with the power to kill Arnold Schwarzenegger six times before breakfast and still have enough venom leftover to down an elephant.

Maybe we needed to make up a story to make us look cooler in the eyes of countries like Australia, or Brazil.  We can blame St. Patrick for sending all the freaky animals off to live in exotic tropical paradises. The only snakes we have left are politicians and property developers, but that’s not quite the same thing. At least the daddy-longlegs name has at long last been cleared.