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How Do Spiders Hunt?

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The 43,000-plus spider species reveal an astonishing diversity. Their habitats, their reproductive behaviors, their life spans and their appearances all vary significantly. So do their hunting styles. 

Wolf Spider Gif

Wolf spiders don't rely on webs, instead they hunt for food on foot. 


Today, spiders are important predators. By one estimate, the spiders on one acre of woodland alone consume more than 80 pounds (36 kg) of insects a year. (Those insect populations would explode without the predators.)

Spiders employ an amazing array of techniques to capture prey.

They drop a line:

Bolas spiders go after a specific meal: male moths. They produce a large ball of sticky silk, which they suspend from a single line. The ball is imbued with a chemical that mimics one emitted by female moths. Male moths are naturally drawn to it.

Funnel-web Grass Spider

This spider spins a sheet-like web attached to a narrow tube, or funnel. Sitting at the mouth of the tube, the spider waits to strike after feeling vibrations of prey crossing the web.

© AMNH/R. Mickens


They work together:

Charles Darwin once described spiders as “bloodthirsty and solitary,” so the naturalist was amazed to encounter social spiders. All told, about 20 species are known to work together to survive. The African funnel-web spider, Agelena consociata, shares its web with hundreds or even a thousand fellow spiders.

Pirate Spider

Pirate spider (Mimetidae)

AMNH/K15041


They play tricks:

Like true tricksters, some pirate spiders of the family Mimetidae fool their prey: other spiders. They vibrate the spiders’ webs the same way a struggling insect might. Then, when the host spiders come close, the pirates grab them.

Scytodes

Scytodes thoracica

Via Wikimedia/AKA


They spit:

Spiders of the genus Scytodes catch prey by ejecting a glue from their chelicerae (spider mouthparts that end in fangs and inject venom into prey). Once it hits, the gooey substance shrinks, trapping the prey in place.

They use a home field advantage:

Lynx spiders of the family Oxyopidae hunt on plants. They are agile, jumping from stem to stem, and have better vision than many other spiders.

Spiders Alive! is open now through Sunday, November 2. Purchase your tickets today.

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