In Memoriam: Daddy Longleg
On nice days throughout the summer and fall, the rangers will almost always prop the door to our little office so that it stays open throughout the day.
The fresh air is nice by all accounts, but leaving the door open is probably not the best idea.
For example, I came in from work one day, and there was a deer in the office. There have also been turtles, snakes and a variety of mice (these never left).
Lately, though, we have been invaded by daddy longlegs.
In fact, I was going to write today’s column on weather, but, as I began to type, I noticed at least ten daddies skulking around on the floor. I began to wonder why I always ignore the little critters. What makes them any less interesting than the monarch butterflies and timber rattlesnakes?
And so, today’s column is dedicated to the daddy longleg that was stomped by a young girl who was attending one of my campfire programs. Forgive her; she knew not what she was doing.
“One bite from a Daddy Longlegs could kill an elephant, but its fangs aren’t long enough to go through our skin.” – Last Words Heard by Daddy Longleg (March 1, 2012 — Oct. 3, 2012)
In Memoriam: Daddy Longleg was born in March 2012 after overwintering in her egg. Her full human-given birth name, “Daddy Longleg Spider,” was known to confuse many, because she was neither a daddy nor a spider.
Though she graduated with the class of Archnida, she was known to follow the Order of Opiliones. Other members of her graduating class included scorpions (Order Scorpiones), ticks and mites (Order Acari) and true spiders (Order Araneae).
Unlike the true spiders that have two body segments and sometimes eight eyes, Daddy Longleg had only one body segment and two eyes. She also never produced silk or made a web in her entire life.
She was especially fond of her very long and special second pair of legs. Friends remember seeing her using these legs to feel the world around her. These legs contained special sensory organs that allowed Daddy Longleg to get a taste and smell for the ground ahead. Basically, these legs acted as her nose, tongue, ears and, perhaps, even as a second set of eyes.
Her favorite foods were decomposing vegetation and insects, though she was known to never pass up the opportunity to eat her own kind.
Daddy Longleg lived under a log behind the Julian Price Park Amphitheater. She is survived by the following family members: her sister, Daddy Longleg, her brothers, Daddy Longleg and Daddy Longleg, and her second cousin, Daddy Longleg.
They have vowed to remember Daddy Longleg as they huddle together to keep warm in the cool, autumn months by emitting her favorite odor. She always used that smell to ward of predators.
Sadly, Daddy Longleg always felt misjudged. In the end, it was a horrible myth that took her life. Daddy Longleg had neither the venom nor fangs for which she was accused.
Her family hopes that her death will remind others about the dangers of prejudice and misunderstanding.
If you have a question concerning flora and fauna, please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) All of your questions will be answered. Two will be featured next week. See you on the trails!
Amy Renfranz is an interpretive park guide on the Blue Ridge Parkway. She is a certified naturalist through the Yellowstone Institute and a certified environmental educator in the state of North Carolina. Her comments are made independently and do not reflect the views of the National Park Service.