As frightening as spiders are, they’re beneficial to the environment by helping be “natural pest controllers” of other insects. However, spiders sometimes become prey themselves. But what kind of insect would be fearless enough to eat a spider?
Continue reading as we look deeper at some of the most common insects that eat spiders and how they get around the arachnid’s clever defenses!
But First, How Do Spiders Defend Themselves?
If you’re a tiny spider in a big world, you need to find some clever ways to defend yourself. So, how do spiders protect themselves from predators?
Let’s find out!
Many Spiders Have Found Clever Ways to Hide from Predators
Have you ever had someone jump out and scare you? If so, did you freeze in place or run? Did you feel the urge to fight back? Our fight or flight response tells us how to respond to life-threatening situations; for many spiders, the answer is to flee.
Spiders often run and hide in spaces predators cannot enter. For example, a spider fleeing from a bird might run under a rock or log, while others might run into the water.
But it’s not just animals and insects that spiders hide from. Some spiders spend their days hiding in houses to avoid humans before coming out at night to hunt. This is why you’ll often find spiders in dark crevices.
We know it can be a little unnerving when a spider suddenly runs out of an unsuspecting place. That’s why we created this guide listing the most common places spiders hide in your home.
Bold Colors Can Help Spiders Warn off Predators
Another way spiders defend themselves from hungry insects (and other animals) is with color.
Although they don’t control their color scheme, research suggests that some spiders have evolved bright colorations to warn predators off.
And most of the time, it works!
For example, a study done at Duke University found that birds were three times less likely to peck at a fake spider mimicking a black widow’s signature red hourglass than one colored all-black.
Many of the spiders that use color as a warning sign are also venomous, so the coloring is just as much a warning to the predator as it is a safety mechanism for the spider.
Still, it’s a pretty cool defense mechanism!
Spiders Also Use Taste as a Defense
Imagine waking up in the middle of the night craving a snack. You walk to your kitchen and grab a slice of cake from the fridge, only to find it tastes like mold when you take a bite. What would you do?
You’d likely spit it out because that’s what our brain tells us to do when we eat something nasty.
Some spider species learned to take advantage of this automatic response and evolved to taste gross so predators would spit them out.
They aren’t the only ones who’ve done this, either. Several butterflies, moths, and beetle species have adapted a similar defense mechanism.
Just like you probably wouldn’t take another bite of cake, once the hungry foe spits the spider out, it’s unlikely they’ll try to take a second bite.
Interestingly, color and taste might go hand in hand.
For example, if a spider tastes terrible, the predator will learn to associate its color with its taste and be less likely to attack a similarly colored spider again.
Spiders Use Their Legs for More Than Running
Most creatures use their legs to run from something that wants to eat them, but spiders have found other ingenious ways to use their legs.
Some spiders shift their weight onto their back legs and throw their front ones into the air. To us, this might look like some crazy form of dancing, but to predators, it seems like the spider got bigger—quickly.
One clever species raises its legs to make them look like ant antennae. They do this to blend in with the ants and reduce their chances of becoming dinner.
Another way spiders use their legs is by abandoning them entirely. Yep, you heard me right. Some spiders willingly drop their legs if a predator has a hold of them.
Finally, some spider species use their legs to jump long distances. In fact, according to the Museum of Etymology, jumping spiders can jump distances 10 to 40 times their body length.
How many humans do you know that could jump up to 200 feet?
Spiders Protect Themselves with Venom
The most obvious way that spiders defend themselves is with venom.
All spiders (except a few) have venom, which they use to subdue their prey. Fortunately for them, they can also use it as a defense. However, because it takes a while to make, most spiders only use venom as a last resort.
Before biting a predator, many spiders will rear up and show off their fangs. In some cases, this is enough to warn off a predator. And we don’t blame them!
If all other defenses fail, spiders will bite an attacker. However, some insects have evolved their own defenses, allowing them to avoid this lethal bite. So although it seems like venom would be a trump card, that’s not always the case.
Spiders Use Webbing As a Defense
Not all spiders produce silk, but the ones that do have found some neat ways to use it for defense.
For example, some trapdoor species run thin lines out of their burrow to alert them when predators enter the area. And other species use their webbing as a net to entangle their attackers.
Another way spiders use their web is to hide. Funnel-web spiders create cone-shaped webs and can run into the small opening to escape. Additionally, some sac spiders use silk to make tent-like structures that pocket and hide the spider from view.
It’s evident that they’re clever, but you might be surprised to learn just how smart spiders are!
10 Common Insects That Eat Spiders
Despite all their defenses, spiders still occasionally find themselves at the bottom of the food chain. But what kind of insect would attempt to prey on a spider?
As crazy as it seems, at least 10 common insects enjoy eating arachnids, and we’re going to tell you all about them!
As a side note, if you’re interested in what specific animals eat spiders, take a look at our detailed list!
1. Wasps Prey on Spiders in Some Odd Way
If spiders dream, they probably have nightmares about wasps.
Dozens of wasp species hunt spiders—but they don’t typically eat them. Instead, adult wasps use spiders as food for their babies.
But not in the way you might think!
People usually assume that wasps live in hives as a group, but that’s not always true. Many species are solitary, preferring to live on their own. And most solitary wasps are parasitoids.
Parasitoids are tiny insects that spend the larval stage of their life developing in or on hosts. Precisely what the adult wasps use as a host depends on its species, but most target one type of insect.
For example, tarantula hawks focus primarily on (you guessed it) tarantulas. Meanwhile, braconid wasps prefer plump, juicy caterpillars like hornworms.
Adult female wasps locate their prey before stinging it. When a spider is stung, it becomes paralyzed. The female then drags the paralyzed spider back to her burrow or nursery and lays eggs on or inside the spider.
Upon hatching, the larvae survive by eating the spider before emerging from the location as a grown adult.
But spiders aren’t entirely harmless!
Before a wasp can sting a spider, it must get through the arachnid’s defenses, and more than one wasp has caught itself in a spider’s web.
2. Spiders Are No Match Against a Praying Mantises Patience!
You might not expect it by looking at the graceful insects, but praying mantises are ferocious predators. Gardeners love them because they’re adept at hunting and eating garden pests. But do mantises eat spiders?
Praying mantis are carnivores, meaning they eat animals and insects. Their diet consists mainly of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other garden pests. Unfortunately for spiders, they’re on the mantises menu too!
But how do they get around a spider’s defenses?
The answer is patience. Although some species actively hunt down insects, most prefer to let dinner come to them. Once they find a suitable location, the mantis raises its arms above its head and waits.
When a spider walks into their hunting ground, the mantis lunges out its long spike-covered arms and grabs the arachnid. Because everything happens so quickly, spiders rarely have time to react. That said, some can fend off their attacker by biting the mantis and hoping the venom does its job.
You might think that praying mantises avoid lethal spiders, but you would be wrong. In fact, some species even attack black widows, one of the most dangerous spiders in the world.
3. Centipedes Eat Spiders
Technically, centipedes aren’t insects. They have too many body parts and too many legs. Still, since most people consider them household insects, we decided to include them in the list.
When it comes to food, nothing is safe from a centipede. According to a fact sheet created by Oklahoma State University, over 1,000 species of centipedes call the United States home, and most eat spiders.
Some insects look more intimidating than they really are, but this isn’t the case with centipedes.
These tiny powerhouses sprint through their environment using their antennae to find food. Once they locate a spider, they ambush it, wrapping their legs around the arachnid and biting it with their venomous forcipules.
Once lassoed, it’s tough for a spider to escape.
In addition to spiders, centipedes eat a variety of other household pests, including:
Honestly, there are very few things a centipede won’t eat if given the opportunity.
Because they don’t cause damage to your home and eat other household pests, they’re pretty beneficial roommates—despite their creepy appearance.
4. Ants Can and Will Eat Spiders
You probably know that some ants are attracted to human food. You might even go out of your way to keep the insects out of your home. But did you know that ants also eat other insects?
Depending on the species, ants eat various other insects and will scavenge already departed bugs as well as live ones. Some of the most common insects on an ants menu include crickets, moths, wasps, other ants, and spiders.
It’s important to note that there are thousands of ant species roaming the world, and not all of them eat insects (or spiders). Some prefer vegetarian diets, while others farm aphids and eat the sweet honeydew they produce.
It’s unlikely that one solitary ant will take down a spider by itself. Instead, the entire colony usually gangs up on the spider, using various defenses to bring it down. If the ants win, they break the spider into small pieces and bring it back home.
Although ants eat them, spiders don’t typically attract ants to your home. That said, ants might attract spiders. Fortunately, you can reduce ant activity in your place by using repellents such as BUGMD’s Essential Oil Concentrate, which is formulated essential oil blend that helps to control ant populations (as well as spiders if you need to get rid of them!)
5. Flies Might Snatch Spiders up and Eat Them
Do you remember the old lady who swallowed a fly? You might not remember why she swallowed the fly, but you probably remember the spider she swallowed soon after to catch the pesky bugger.
That’s because spiders are well-known predators of flies. But sometimes, that goes the other way.
Spider flies have a unique way of eating spiders. The adult flies lay eggs in areas where spiders frequently travel. After hatching, the larva jumps onto a passing spider before burrowing into its bloodstream.
Amazingly, some bigger spiders can live with the larva in their body for up to ten years!
Eventually, the larvae eat the spider before emerging, wrapping themselves in the spider’s web, and pupating into an adult fly.
Robber flies have a much bolder approach. They swoop down, snatch the spider from its web, and fly off to enjoy their meal.
In addition to flies that eat spiders, some rely on arachnids for food. When spiders catch prey, they wrap it up and save it for later. But sometimes they lose their midnight snack to a fly before they have the chance to enjoy it.
It seems pretty brave for a fly to steal from a spider!
6. Crickets Eat Smaller Spiders
You might be surprised to see crickets on this list. So were we! But believe it or not, some crickets do eat spiders.
Crickets are tiny insects related to grasshoppers. Interestingly, grasshoppers might sometimes eat spiders too, but they don’t go out of their way to hunt for them like some of their cousins.
Depending on the species, crickets eat a variety of things, including:
Because they don’t have venom or other defenses, they rely on scavenging and ambush tactics.
Crickets will often eat spiders that have already passed or prey on molting spiders who cannot fight back. They may also eat juvenile spiders before they get large enough to bite.
7. Spiders Are Part of a Scorpion’s Diet
Despite being small, scorpions are big predators. Some species can even take down small mammals. That said, most species are happy to eat a variety of insects, including spiders.
Even though they have similar hunting strategies, scorpions have an advantage over spiders. Their large pincers allow them to hold prey at a distance, keeping them safe from a spider’s venomous fangs. Additionally, their tail enables them to strike the spider without getting too close.
Some scorpion species actively hunt spiders. For example, spiral burrow scorpions are well-known for hunting burrow-dwelling spiders and stealing their home!
Other times, scorpions end up with a spider dinner after being attacked first. Many species of tarantula prey on scorpions, but sometimes, things don’t go in their favor.
When that happens, the scorpions are more than happy to eat their attackers.
8. Dragonflies Grab Spiders Right out of Their Web
Dragonflies are beautiful insects and are often thought to be good luck—unless you’re a spider!
According to North Temperate Lakes Long Term Ecological Research (NTL LTER), there are around 300 to 350 species of dragonfly living in the United States. The majority of these live in and around slow-moving freshwater.
Dragonflies spend the first half of their life in the water as nymphs before emerging from the water and hatching into adult dragonflies. While in the water, larvae eat practically anything, including spiders and small fish.
But they don’t lose their taste for spiders as adults, and some species will even swoop down and pluck spiders right out of their web! However, this is a dangerous game as many find themselves being lunch rather than having lunch.
9. Spiders Fall Victim to Sneaky Assassin Bugs
The name assassin bug sounds intimidating, but these little insects have found ways to live up to that name.
Assassin bugs eat a wide variety of other bugs. Many gardeners love seeing them because they know these skilled hunters will keep harmful pests away.
Once they find a suitable meal, they impale their mark with a tubular mouthpart called a proboscis. Then they inject their dinner with saliva and venom before sucking the liquified innards out of their meal.
We told you they lived up to their name!
Most assassin bugs are content snacking on smaller insects and caterpillars, but some species go after much bigger game, including spiders. To ensure their safety, they use various sneaky methods to get around a spider’s defenses.
For example, some pretend to get caught in a spider’s web before ambushing the arachnid when it comes in for a bite. Others tap on the spider to confuse it before stabbing it with their pointy mouthpiece.
Typically, they’ll only go after web spiders because they rely on methods that use a spider’s web against it.
10. Spiders Will Often Eat Other Spiders!
With so many other insects to worry about, you would think that spiders would leave each other alone, but several species engage in cannibalism.
Because males are often smaller than females, cannibalism during mating is common among spiders. For example, black widows and wolf spiders are well-known for devouring their mates.
The practice is so common that some male species have evolved maneuvers that increase their chances of survival.
Tarantula males engage in a courtship dance with a female to ensure she is willing to mate before getting too close. Even then, most will hold the female in a way that minimizes her ability to bite him.
Additionally, some orb-weaving spiders have learned to spring themselves away from their mate before they’re eaten. Others avoid females altogether, opting instead to drop sperm sacs that females pick up once the male is a safe distance away.
But cannibalism is not always just a mating ritual. Many spiderlings eat the smaller babies from a clutch, and some even eat their mother.
Then you have a whole group of spiders, called assassin spiders, who have explicitly evolved to hunt other arachnids better. They have more prominent fangs, longer legs, and better eyesight, allowing them to take down other spiders easily.
That’s A Wrap!
While not all of them will hunt for spiders specifically, most insects that eat other bugs will prey on spiders if the opportunity presents itself. But when it comes to common household insects, only a few choose to feast on arachnids.
Now for a quick recap!
The 10 common household insects that eat spiders are:
- Praying Mantises
- Assassin Bugs
- Other Spiders
Now you know who to blame if the spiders around your home start disappearing or who to call in if you become overrun with arachnids.
Hopefully this article helped you out! And if you’d like to learn more about spiders, check out our article detailing where spiders go during the winter and when they return.
Bucher, R., Binz, H., Menzel, F., & Entling, M. H. (2014). Spider cues stimulate feeding, weight gain and survival of crickets. Ecological Entomology, 39(6), 667-673.
Finch, O. D. (2005). The parasitoid complex and parasitoid‐induced mortality of spiders (Araneae) in a Central European woodland. Journal of Natural History, 39(25), 2339-2354.
Gunnarsson, B. (2007). Bird predation on spiders: ecological mechanisms and evolutionary consequences. The Journal of Arachnology, 35(3), 509-529.
Uetz, G. W. (1992). Foraging strategies of spiders. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 7(5), 155-159.
Wood, H. (2008). A revision of the assassin spiders of the Eriauchenius gracilicollis group, a clade of spiders endemic to Madagascar (Araneae: Archaeidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 152(2), 255-296.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
Download My Free E-Book!
Take a look at my guide on Pest Proofing Your Home In Under a Day! I get into the nitty-gritty on the most common types of pests you’ll see on your property including BOTH insects and wildlife, along with the specific signs to look for regarding any pest you have questions about.