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Photoreceptors for visual perception, phototaxis or light avoidance are typically clustered in eyes or related structures such as the Bolwig organ of Drosophila larvae. Unexpectedly, we found that the class IV dendritic arborization neurons of Drosophila melanogaster larvae respond to ultraviolet, violet and blue light, and are major mediators of light avoidance, particularly at high intensities. These class IV dendritic arborization neurons, which are present in every body segment, have dendrites tiling the larval body wall nearly completely without redundancy. Dendritic illumination activates class IV dendritic arborization neurons. These novel photoreceptors use phototransduction machinery distinct from other photoreceptors in Drosophila and enable larvae to sense light exposure over their entire bodies and move out of danger.