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Are Spiders Predators?

The vast majority of spider species are predators. They are capable of hunting down their prey and capturing it with their webs, while also applying venom to paralyze the prey or kill it off.

spider eating

But even though spiders are capable predators, very few of them are on the top of their food chains. Most spiders still have some natural predators such as birds. These will paralyze them with venom, which makes them an easy target. This means that spiders are both predators and prey.

Are Spiders Predators?

In general, yes, most spiders are predators. They will survive by hunting down other animals and killing them with their venom. 

Some of the most common types of foods that spiders eat include insects such as bugs, flies, cockroaches, and other insects. Some spiders will also eat smaller frogs or lizards, while others will also eat worms.

Some spiders are more capable predators than others, but not all spiders hunt the same. In general, there are two main methods of how spiders capture their prey:

  • Using their web
  • Using their agility and venom

Let’s take a look at how spiders capture their prey according to both methods.

Are Spiders Apex Predators?

tarantula

Spiders are rarely apex predators because the vast majority of spider species have at least one natural predator.

Even the most venomous and vicious spiders often have at least one natural predator. Younger spiders are often seen as snacks by larger predators in the wild, while adult spiders might also become prey.

Spider wasps are particularly famous for hunting venomous spiders. The tarantula hawk wasp, for instance, will commonly eat tarantulas. Spider wasps have also been known for capturing or killing brown recluse spiders, which are some of the most venomous spiders in the world.

Spiders are known to be some of the most prolific hunters in nature. Some scientists estimate that spiders consume between 400 and 800 million tonnes of insects annually, which is at the top of all animal predators of insects. They’re capable of hunting massive amounts of insects each day as well.

However, they also have some vulnerabilities. They may be susceptible to attacks from the air, such as attacks from spider wasps or some birds that capture spiders. This means that spiders are often near the top of the food chain in their environment, although they’re not true apex spiders.

Even though spiders are potent predators, they are usually not considered to be apex predators.

Are Spiders Good Predators?

yellow garden spider

Spiders are some of the best predators in the world.

Their primary way of feeding themselves is by hunting other animals. They can capture and kill large amounts of animals, especially insects.

Some spiders can camouflage themselves as ants or other bugs to lure in unsuspecting would-be predators.

They have strong instincts for capturing other animals. They rely on their hairs (tarantulas); others will use their wit to capture their prey. Spiders are not afraid to wait and surprise their prey, which gives the prey almost no chance of escape.

In addition, some spiders are also quite fast. They can outrun almost any type of prey if needed, which gives the prey little hope of survival.

They also often have potent venoms to back up their strong predatory skills. Their venoms allow them to paralyze their prey and make it unable to move. Once that happens, the prey will start to lose its functions and it will not be able to recover from the sting.

How do Spiders Catch their Prey?

Related: How do Spiders Eat their Prey?

1. Trapping Prey in a Web

funnel web

Many spiders use their web to capture their prey. For example, spiders like orb-weaving spiders will capture their prey using their web.

There are several types of webs that spiders can create to capture their prey. The most common webs include:

  • Orb webs (orb weavers)
  • Sheet webs
  • Tangled webs
  • Irregular webs
  • Funnel webs
  • Triangle webs

Most spiders will wait for their prey to get stuck inside their webs before they paralyze them with venom. Spider webs contain special sticky silk that makes it difficult for the prey to escape once it gets stuck inside.

After the prey is stuck inside the web, the spider will get alerted as the web starts to vibrate. It signals to the spider that it needs to go to the prey and kill it off. It will do that using venom.

It will first paralyze its prey until its unable to escape. After that, the enzymes in the venom will start to liquefy the prey. This will make the prey easier to consume. After some time, the prey will be fully liquified, allowing the spider to start enjoying its meal.

Spiders that rely on their webs to hunt will rarely leave their web, especially when hunting. This allows them to stay alert at all times. They also don’t have the best capability to run fast and they’re not as agile as hunting spiders.

Related: Why do Spiders Sit in the Middle of their Webs?

2. Ambushing

crab spider

Not all spiders rely on their webs to capture and kill their prey.

Some spider species, like for example, the wolf spider, will capture their prey by ambushing it and then paralyzing it (see: Do Wolf Spiders Jump?).

Spiders that don’t rely on their webs to capture their prey have to be agile and powerful enough to run down the prey if needed. Their primary technique of capturing prey is by ambushing, meaning they will wait for the prey to come by and then attack it when it is least expecting it to happen.

Hunting spiders might or might not create webs to survive. Some won’t create webs at all – for example, jumping spiders or wolf spiders. They don’t need webs to survive, because they will use their agility for both capturing their prey and escaping their predators.

Related: What do Wolf Spiders Eat?

Conclusion

Spiders are some of the best predators in the world. Some spiders rely on their webs to capture their prey, while others will use their hunting skills to do so.

However, spiders often also have some natural predators as well. They are not the best at defending against attacks from above and they’re susceptible to attacks from spider wasps in particular, but also some birds. Overall, spiders are still one of the deadliest predators in the wild.

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