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Harvestmen (Opiliones)

Natural History

Harvestmen (also called daddy longlegs) are arachnids and members of the order Opiliones. Although they are arachnids, they are not spiders. Though their are many species of the insect (over 6,400 species of harvestmen have been discovered worldwide) they are all characterized by their 8 long legs and an oval body structure (spiders have bodies with 2 segments) which can be up to 5/16 inches in length. Most are brown or tan in color.

An urban legend claims that the harvestman is the most venomous animal in the world, but its fangs are too small to bite a human and therefore is not dangerous. This is a myth. None of the known species have venom glands or fangs.

Harvestmen are nocturnal, but they are occasionally seen moving about in daylight. Most are omnivorous, eating primarily small insects and all kinds of plant material and fungi; some are scavengers, feeding upon dead organisms, bird dung and other fecal material. In order to detract predators they have a pair of defensive scent glands (ozopores) that secrete a peculiar smelling fluid when disturbed. Most harvestmen reproduce sexually, sometimes the male guards the female after copulation, and in many species the males defend territories. The females lay eggs shortly after mating, or up to months later. The eggs hatch after anywhere from 20 days to almost half a year.

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