What do Spiders Eat?

Spiders are often described as predators which even engage in cannibalism. But what do spiders eat? What is the main inclusion in a spider’s diet? Here are the answers for all those who love these eight-legged beasts.

Diet of a spider

Spiders are part of Arachnids and are included in the Arthropoda class. Scientists have found more than forty thousand spiders from different parts of the world. Interestingly enough, most of these species have more or less a standard diet. In general, a spider is carnivorous, while a few species are herbivores.

A spider will eat different kinds of insects. While the smaller ones catch the smaller insects, the larger ones hunt down insects and even the smaller spiders. Their diet usually depends on their habitat, the atmosphere, the weather, and other environmental factors.

Another interesting fact is that spiders only eat live insects. Instead, they catch their prey and eat the live prey. The spiders usually do not store dead prey and do not prefer dead insects as their food.

Common web-weaving spiders usually catch flies, mosquitoes, and moths. These spiders often keep harmful insects at bay. Hence, they may do good for your household.

Medium-sized spiders also eat grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, and other insects. They usually remain hidden and get proper camouflage. As soon as the prey comes nearby, the spiders hind these down.

There are also giant spiders that eat larger insects. These spiders usually hunt butterflies, moths, etc., to get nutrition. The huntsman spider can even eat lizards and frogs.

The spiders from the Myrmarachne genus are ant-eaters. Spiders of this genus, including the Kerengga spider, feed on the ants. These spiders have a natural ability to mimic ants. They also have an appearance similar to ants. This allows them to easily enter any ant’s stream or colony without being detected. After they find some ants in their close vicinity, these spiders hunt down those ants.

There is another spider named Ordgarius Magnificus, or the Magnificent Spider, which also preys on ants. But, these species have a different way of hunting. Usually, Ordagarius Spider secretes a fluid droplet with a strong pheromone. This pheromone attracts moths and ants. The attracted insects come near the droplet, and the spider instantly hunts these insects to eat them.

Scientists have also found a few species which have a particular preference for their prey. That means these spiders only eat one or two types of insects and usually do not opt for other insects unless they are in dire situations. Such spiders may even eat other spider species. For example, Lemon or the white-tailed spider eats smaller spiders only. They usually do not eat any other insect. Similarly, spiders like Lampona also eat spiders. They can even hunt down the Pholcus spider, which is elusive and has longer legs.

But, not all spiders are carnivores. A few species are herbivores and feed on plants to get their nutrition. The Bagheera kilpingi spider, which is from the “Jumping spider” species, is a herbivore. This spider is found in Mexico and Pasta Rice. The Kiplingi spider mainly eats the protein nodules of the acacia tree. They have a unique digestive system that can digest sugar and proteins and a small amount of fat. Hence they can get nutrition from the acacia tree. But they also eat ant larvae occasionally.

How does a spider eat?

A spider has a small mouth like the head of a pin, so how can it eat its food? Well, different spiders have different tricks under their legs!

The web-weaving spiders have a unique way of eating their food. First, they wrap the prey in silk and wait until the prey becomes immobilized or dead. The spider then squirts digestive juices containing enzymes on the body of the prey. It helps them to liquefy the solid body of the prey. Moreover, the juices also fasten up the whole digestion procedure. After this, the spider will use its chelicerae or the jaws to suck one of the liquefied food alongside the enzymes. It may repeat the procedure multiple times to eat the prayer.

The crab spiders and cobweb spiders drill holes through the prey and vomit the digestive juice on the prey, and will wait till the meatier parts of the prey become liquid and the shell only remains.

The spiders which do not weave may eat the prey after discarding the wings, legs, and other body parts. It is more common in larger spiders.

Do spiders drink?

Spiders usually get the water from the prey they catch. But, they also drink water occasionally. A spider is a slow drinker and will drink water whenever it feels it requires some hydration.

Are spiders cannibals?

Spiders usually live solitary lives. If there are two spiders near each other, one might cannibalize another. The spiders can practice different types of cannibalism.

The male water spiders hunt down female spiders of the same species if the latter are smaller in size. On the other hand, the Redback spider females kill the male spider after the latter inserts its second palpus in the female’s genital opening. In nearly 60% of the case, the female eats the male spider.

Pholcus phalangites may end up cannibalizing if it is facing a shortage of food. There is also another instance of cannibalism. The newborn spiders of the species Stegodyphus lineatus often eat their mother. On the other hand, the female Segestria florentina spider often protects its eggs. The hatchlings later eat the dead body of the mother.

How often do the spiders eat?

Spiders are usually opportunistic foodies. They eat whenever they get an opportunity and catch the insects as soon as it comes closer. But, a spider may also not end food for a day or two if it has enough food. The poikilothermic nature of the spider allows them to slow down their metabolic rate and conserve energy until a new prey arrives. But, spiders need regular food as starvation causes them to die.

Final Words

Spiders are usually carnivores and eat different types of insects. There is a single spider species, the Kiplingi spider, which feeds on the acacia tree. Other than these, all the species of spiders catch their prey and prefer live prey. Spiders may eat mosquitoes, grasshoppers, and even frogs or lizards, depending on their size.

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