Daddy-Longlegs is our affectionate term for a Crane Fly. You know the one. That skinny fella with the impossibly long, gangly legs. He looks a bit like a mosquito on steroids. Not very steady in flight he’ll probably be wobbling his way around your living room this time of the year, awkwardly batting your lamp shades.
There are two insects and one spider that are commonly known as Daddy-Longlegs worldwide. In America it’s used to describe a Harvestman, elsewhere it refers to a long-legged house spider but here in Ireland and in Britain when we talk about Daddy-Longlegs we mean a Crane Fly.
The Crane Fly’s life is short. It does not even need to feed during it’s brief existence. It’s sole purpose is to mate and lay eggs. Though the crane fly itself is not a garden pest it’s larvae can cause considerable damage to lawns and other plants by feeding on their roots, from late September to May. These stubby worms are called leatherjackets. They are tubular with no legs. Shorter, but fatter than an earthworm, they are light grey in color and have a leather-like texture. The huge numbers of crane flies that have emerged this autumn may be down to the endless rain we’ve endured this summer as leatherjackets favor wet conditions. Our house is absolutely full of them- I don’t remember there being so many last year. Luckily we are not too precious about our lawn so they shouldn’t present a problem in our garden.
There seems be be a commonly held belief (a friend informed me of this “fact” only last week) that the daddy-longlegs has the world’s most powerful venom but, due to a fortunate design fault, it cannot bite thus rendering it harmless. I have no idea how this urban myth started but this is not true of any of the three insects which carry the nickname of daddy-longlegs. Admittedly, it makes for an impressive anecdote but there is no scientific evidence to back up this claim. So rest assured, as you swat that big, dangly-legged fly whirling around your head, you are not dicing with death!