What Do Spiders Eat?

Though some spiders may bite, they are not interested in humans as a food source. Spiders are mainly insectivores, consuming between 400-800 million metric tons of insects each year. They are a vital part of the ecosystem and can be very beneficial. Without spiders, we would have loads more pesky flies, moths, and mosquitoes to deal with.

While nearly every spider feeds on insects, there are a few exceptions. There are some species of spiders that are known to eat plants.The bagheera kiplingi jumping spider from Mexico is a vegetarian and feeds on acacia leaves. Some large spiders may also occasionally eat small frogs, lizards, or other invertebrates as part of their diets. As a general rule, spiders typically eat live prey or prey that has been recently killed and do not scavenge for dead or decaying food.

How do spiders get food?

Web-building spiders like yellow sac spiders, orb-weavers, and common house spiders, weave sticky webs to catch their food. They mostly feast on flying insects like flies, mosquitoes, moths, and butterflies. Red back spiders also rely heavily on insects, but if larger spiders or lizards get stuck in their webs, they may eat them as well.

Some spiders are ground dwellers that live in burrows. These spiders will lay in wait for prey to pass by their hole before springing out of their hiding place to snatch it. Mouse spiders and funnel webs use this behavior for acquiring food.

Lastly, some species of spiders will actually hunt their food down by stalking it and then moving quickly to catch it. Jumping spiders and wolf spiders exhibit this type of hunting behavior to get their food. As spiders increase in size, the size of the prey also tends to increase.

How do spiders actually eat?

Since spiders don’t have teeth, they do not eat the same way we do. Spiders actually begin the eating process on the outside by vomiting up digestive enzymes that will start to break down the prey. They can then use their jaw-like structures, known as chelicerae, to begin to “chew” or break down the food. Then they will suck out the partially digested fluids and liquified meat from their prey.  

How does knowing this help me keep spiders out of my house?

Spiders are not attracted to your food, but they are attracted to the insects that come in search of your crumbs. This means that being clean and keeping your home tidy is still an important factor in spider control. Sweep or vacuum often to prevent bugs and insects. Spiders are also known to hang out around outdoor lights because that is a great place to catch insects. Turn off outdoor lights when possible, keep them away from major entry points, and switch out your bulbs to colors that are less likely to attract insects. It is also important to seal the exterior of your home to prevent them from coming in, and make sure that you have weatherstripping around doors and windows.

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