The daddy long-legs, the ant and the roly-poly


Did you play with one of those plastic bug catchers when you were a child?

I did. It’s how I learned the difference between a grasshopper and a cricket and a praying mantis.

It’s how I learned that spiders are arachnids and not insects.


It’s how I learned that moms do not like it when you bring these things to their attention — inside the house — when they are cooking.*

The tradition is now passed to the next generation. Girl from the East received a bug catcher as a Christmas gift. The other day we dug it out of her toy box, unscrewed the cap and set to work hunting multi-legged creatures in our yard.

Catch of the day:

one oddly graceful harvestman or daddy long-legs (which is an arachnid but not a spider); one industrious carpenter ant; and one hapless roly-poly bug (or pill bug or armadillidiidae. Say that three times really fast.)


The ant zig-zags around the base, up and down the sides, searching for an escape. No doubt in a panic because he stepped out of marching formation. There will be repercussions if he ever returns to the colony. The ant stops only when face-to-face with the daddy long-legs. Each sizes up the other and considers: am I predator or prey? Eventually it stops to wave its antennae and consider the next move.

The daddy long-legs chooses its moves carefully. It steps gracefully and slowly around the jar, stopping often to consider its options. It hovers over the roly-poly several times, sending it into the stop, drop and roll mode.

The roly-poly races around the perimeter of the jar like a marathoner in training. Sometimes it curls into its protective ball, caroming off the sides and ending up on its back, little legs waving, shell bobbing in an exhaustive effort to right itself.  Rather than conserve its energy like the daddy long-legs or eventually stop to strategize like the ant, the little pill bug runs itself to death.

What we learned:

Are you the ant: Always busy and purposeful until something unexpected happens, at which point you initially panic but then calm down and strategize?


Are you the daddy long-legs: Ever patient and calculating? Saving your energy for the right moment, avoiding fruitless pursuits?

Are you the roly-poly: Running around in circles until you’ve expended all your energy, ultimately killing yourself before you’ve figured out what you’re supposed to do with your life?

It’s something to think about.


* I am not one of those moms. But that’s a story for another day.