Snake-Eating Spiders, and One Vegetarian

in StemSocial6 months ago

Brown Widow Spider (Egypt): Captures and Eats Snakes
brown widow spider egypt Kagemni 4.0.png
Image credit: Kagemni. Used under CC 4.0 License.

This blog was prompted by articles about snakes and spiders that I read on STEMsocial last week. I wondered, Do snakes eat spiders? And if they do, which snakes actively hunt spiders for food? I discovered that snakes do indeed eat spiders. In fact, a snake will eat anything that can be characterized as 'meat'. Snakes are obligate carnivores, and therefore must eat meat in order to survive.

Corn Snake, Adult
Corn_Snake_Adult Glenn Bartolotti 4.0.png
Image credit: Glenn Bartolotti. Used under CC 4.0 license. Usually, small snakes eat insects and spiders. Large snakes do not derive much nutrition from these small animals and are likely to consider them as appetizers, not the main course. One snake species that does eat insects and spiders is the corn snake.

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As I looked for material on snakes that eat spiders, I came across something much more surprising: spiders that eat snakes. There are actually spiders that feast on snakes. This information is relatively new to the spider/snake (arachnologist/herpetologist) community. It seems that a considerable number of spider species engage in this activity, and amazingly, even more snake species are affected.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, upwards of 40 spider species have been observed catching and eating snakes. Upwards of 90 snake species have been observed in this unfavorable (for the snake) relationship. Keep in mind that there may be many occasions of this interaction that have not been observed, given the remote areas where snake and spider species live.

Australian Redback Spider
Australian redback spider Latrodectus_hasseltii_-Sydney,_Australia-8 Laurence Grayson from Suffolk, UK 2.0.png
Image credit: Laurence Grayson from Suffolk, UK. Used under CC 2.0 license. According to an article in Science News, if you don't include its legs, the redback spider is only about the size of an M&M candy. Yet it can take down one of the most venomous snakes in the world. Although indigenous to Australia, the redback may now be found in New Zealand and throughout Southeast Asia.

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The Australian redback is one of several kinds of widow spiders. The widows belong to the Theridiidae family. Spiders in the family are also known as comb-footed or cobweb spiders. The Theridiidae family of spiders is cosmopolitan, which means it has world-wide distribution, though the spider is not found in Antarctica. There are at least a hundred genera in this family. Most of these are harmless. However, harmless does not describe one genus in the family: Latrodectus.

There are 34 identified Latrodectus species. These include redbacks, black widows, brown widows and button spiders (South Africa). Redbacks, black widows, brown widows and button spiders all kill and eat snakes. It is said that the button spider can kill a snake 100 times larger than itself.

Female Inland Button Spider (Latrodectus Renivulvatus)
Female_inland_button_spider_(Latrodectus_renivulvatus).png
Image credit: RudiSteenkamp. Used under CC 4.0 license.

All spiders in the Latrodectus genus are venomous and are considered of 'medical significance'. This means, if you get bitten, seek medical attention right away. The best thing would be to catch the spider that bites you so that the doctor can properly assess the danger and treatment.

The good news is, these spiders are not interested in you. They are rather shy and will only mess with you if you mess with them, even accidentally. The one exception to this is a female that is guarding her eggs. Only female widows have large enough mandibles and carry enough venom to hurt most humans. Juveniles and males usually are not dangerous to humans.

Black Widow With Egg Sack
Blackwidow_eggsac_silk Mark Chappell of University of California, Riverside 2.5.png
Image credit: Mark Chappell of University of California, Riverside. Used under CC 2.5 license

Other types of spiders that prey on snakes are tarantulas and orb-web spiders. Some tarantulas have a diet that consists exclusively of frogs and snakes. Unlike other snake-eating spiders, tarantulas do not ensare the snake with a web but actively hunt and kill.

Tarantula
tarantula lil argeh.png
Image credit: @argeh, on #LIL. Public domain.

What was surprising to me was that many of the snake species attacked were venomous. Some venomous snakes that have fallen prey to spiders are: coral snakes, rattlers, palm-pitvipers and lanceheads. The more venomous the snake the longer it takes for that snake to succumb to the spider venom.

Palm Pit-Viper, Bothriechis nigroviridis
palm pit-viper Bothriechis_nigroviridis_(4) TimVickers public.png
Image credit: TimVickers. Public domain.

In Australia, the redback spider has been observed killing and eating an Eastern Brown Snake, which is said to be the second most venomous snake in the world. This snake may be up to 30 times the size of the attacking spider.

Australian Juvenile Eastern Brown Snake
juvenile eastern brown snake australia.png
Image credit:Poyt448 Peter Woodard. Released into the public domain by the author. Juvenile Eastern Brown Snakes have stripes and adult snakes do not. However, both juvenile and adult snakes carry lethal venom.

An adult eastern brown snake can grow to seven feet. The article I read describes a spider eating a juvenile.

While Australia has a reputation for being home to venomous spiders, the North American black widow is actually a more prolific snake hunter. Half of the recorded arachnid on snake attacks came from North America. A third came from Australia.

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The Vegetarian Spider

I haven't forgotten the promise in the title to introduce readers to a vegetarian spider. While snakes are obligate carnivores, that is not true for spiders. There is at least one known spider that prefers plants to meat, and there are other spiders that eat plants, as well as meat. Most of the plant-eating spiders enjoy nectar.

As I discuss spider species here, please keep in mind that there have been 43,000 spider species identified in the world. It is estimated that this may only represent half of all species. There are so many yet to be discovered and/or identified.

Bagheera Kiplingi: Vegetarian Spider
Bagheera_kiplingi_(cropped) Maximilian Paradiz 2.0.png
Image credit: Maximilian Paradiz. Used under CC 2.0 license. This spider is the only known (discovered so far) spider that feeds almost exclusively on plants.

The Bagheera kipling was discovered in Costa Rica in 2001. The animal spends its entire life on acacia plants. In order to do so, it must avoid ants that also live on the acacia. The ants have a mutualistic relationship with the plant. They feed off it and protect it from herbivores, such as Bagheera kipling.

Ants That Live on the Acacia, Pseudomyrmex ferruginea
Pseudomyrmex_ferruginea_Ryan_Somma 2.0.png
Image credit: Ryan Somma. Used under CC 2.0 license

Most of the plant-eating spiders enjoy nectar. Some of the nectar-craving spiders have taken on the appearance of an ant in order to elude detection.

Peckhamia, Nectar-Eating Spider That Looks Like an Ant
Peckhamia prunus David Hill 2.0.png
Image credit: David Hill. Used under CC 2.0 license.

While this species of spider competes with ants for nectar, the spider has been observed also eating ants. However, when competing for nectar, the spiders are cautious. They wait until the coast is clear. They are able to avoid the ants because the spiders have excellent eyesight.

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Conclusion
This blog wouldn't exist without the STEMsocial community. It was information I read there that sent me off on a minor research project. And, the images in the blog would not have been as rich without #LIL, an image resource associated with the LMAC community.

I find this subject fascinating. Most people are afraid of snakes and spiders (I am, if they get too close). The best way to handle fear I think is through information. Plus, reading about these animals reminds me of the wonderful adaptability of life. Each species mentioned in this blog has evolved to survive in a particular niche. Each species serves an important function.

The more we understand, I believe, the more we will respect the multitudinous forms of life that share this planet with us. I hope my readers have enjoyed this essay as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Everyone be well, be safe, be as happy as life allows.

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Sources
Illustration not already credited in blog
Spider Accent: @muelli on #LIL
Snake Accent: @agmoore on #LIL
Spider GIF: @agmoore, using @muelli's spider

This post was inspired by two two blogs that appeared on STEMsocial: Datos relevantes sobre arañas enanas del género Oecobius y la especie Oecobius navus by @abneagro, and Reproductive Habits in Snakes, by @gentleshaid.

Selected Research Sources
1https://www.sciencenews.org/article/spiders-eat-snakes-biology
2https://www.almanac.com/garter-snakes-gardeners-friend
3https://www.livescience.com/spiders-prey-on-snakes.html
4https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/snake-intake/
5https://faunafacts.com/snakes/do-snakes-eat-spiders/
6https://www.billabongsanctuary.com.au/eastern-brown-snake/
7https://www.livescience.com/spiders-prey-on-snakes.html
8https://entomology.wsu.edu/outreach/bug-info/black-widow/
9https://www.farmonline.com.au/story/4670080/brown-snakes-get-more-deadly-with-age/
10https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9726801/Spiders-eating-snakes-planet-shocking-study-says.html
11https://australian.museum/learn/animals/spiders/redback-spider/
12https://www.studyfinds.org/spiders-eat-snakes/
13https://bioone.org/journals/the-journal-of-arachnology/volume-49/issue-1/JoA-S-20-050/Spiders-Arachnida-Araneae-feeding-on-snakes-Reptilia-Squamata/10.1636/JoA-S-20-050.full
14https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/latrodectus
15https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/these-40-spiders-kill-and-eat-snakes-180978380/
16https://www.sciencealert.com/a-tarantula-mauled-this-snake-to-death-and-scientists-have-never-seen-anything-like-it
17https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2015/05/what-to-do-if-you-find-a-spider/
18https://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/cemcoc.htm
19https://petkeen.com/snakes-that-dont-eat-mice/
20https://www.livescience.com/5759-rare-vegetarian-spider-discovered.html
21https://cisr.ucr.edu/invasive-species/brown-widow-spider
22https://peckhamia.com/peckhamia/PECKHAMIA_178.1.pdf
23https://www.livescience.com/54053-photos-plant-eating-spiders.html
24https://news.arizona.edu/story/herbivory-discovered-in-a-spider
25https://www.livescience.com/21818-spiders-scoprions-exhibit.html
26https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/spiders-catch-eat-surprisingly-big-snakes
27https://www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/invertebrates/spidersandscorpions/blackwidow
28https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/latrodectus-hesperus
29https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/bites_dangerous_spider_treatment
30https://presswire18.com/button-spider-these-african-spiders-the-worlds-most-poisonous-make-snakes-prey-in-a-jiffy/
31https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/theridiidae
32https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/comb-footed-spiders
33https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/where-do-redback-spiders-live.html
34https://peteducate.com/do-snakes-eat-insects/
35https://rawznaturalpetfood.com/obligate-carnivore-cats/

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Very very interesting spider facts!! I really enjoyed this spider post!! I didn't know that there are vegetarian spiders out there, I thought they were all carnivores. 🕸🕷

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Hello dear @ruth-girl,
I remember the wonderful spider pictures you used to post on Steemstem. Vegetarian and snake-eating spiders, all new to me also! There were some beautiful shots of that vegetarian munching on acacia leaves, but the pictures weren't Creative Commons so I couldn't use them :)

Thank you very much for visiting. Nice to see you here. Stay well, everybody in the family, stay well🌷🌷

Snakes were indeed quite popular on STEMsocial recently, and now it seems that we will start a spider week :-)

I must admit I had to read your title thrice before getting it fully. I initially thought that you mixed who ate who. Of course you didn't, and I find the fact that spiders can eat snake as surprising as you did. The small beast is stronger than the larger one... Whilst surprising, this however won't be the first time ^^

I would like to thank you for sharing these pieces of information that were all new to me. I will definitely remember them when I will start chasing spiders out of my garage. Local (non-dangerous) spiders usually invade us during winter time. We let let them rest there in a warm place, but at spring time, it is garage cleaning time, and we "clean the spiders" as well. Outside is good for them when the weather is warmer (and there are so many spiders inside that it becomes not acceptable :) ).

By the way, very lovely pictures! :)

Greetings @lemouth,
I had fun writing this. It's amazing to me how much we don't know about the creatures who share the planet with us. That little vegetarian spider is really quite cute. It's named after a character in Kipling's Jungle Book.

We don't kill spiders either, unless they look dangerous. We catch them if they are in the house and we put them outside (even in the winter). We don't care too much about the garage, or even the basement. But closets and the house...no😃

Spider week😅 Yes! It was great articles in the community that prompted this one. Insects/spiders fascinate me.

Thank you very much for visiting and for the interesting and lovely comment. It's really quite gratifying.

Take care. Be safe over there. Crazy, crazy times.

Regards,

This sentence has to be emphasised more, I believe:

We don't kill spiders either, unless they look dangerous.

In many situations, there is simply no need to kill. We can "just" explain them their place is outside/elsewhere (i.e. not in the house). We should respect all creatures and not kill any of them just for the pleasure of it. When there is no need, there is no need (and there is as well no room for a 'but').

Have a nice week-end!

We don't kill spiders either, unless they look dangerous

My kids won't even let me kill flies in the house. Did you ever try to catch a fly :)) It takes a while.

We do this in summer time. Flies invade us by dozens. We are trying to attract them outside, but we have most of the time to kill them (there is no way out, as living with so many flies inside the house is not an option we are ready to accept).

🐝🐝
😇

Please not the bees! Those should be protected! ;)

😆😆

You mean there is no hope for me to mutate into another spiderman? Sad much.

It is actually interesting to find that some spiders have the capacity to feed on snakes, when logically, one would think the reverse to be the norm.

Awesome write up

You mean there is no hope for me to mutate into another spiderman

:))

I did find this subject fascinating. I resisted showing pictures of the gruesome act. It's not fair I think to post pictures that might be offensive.

Thanks for visiting and for your kind words, @gentleshaid

This is epic! I've seen several videos and photos of button spiders chowing down on small snakes, like mole snakes, but not of anything larger or even highly venomous. But that just affirms why button spiders are the most awesome genus of spiders ever (L. geometricus being the most awesome but I'm biased because they're my favourite).

I had no idea about nectar-eating spoods, though. That is really uniquely amazing. Here I thought the wildest spider was another jumping spider, Toxeus magnus, for actually producing "milk" to feed her spiderlings with. Jumpers are just all-round weird.

Again, this is a great post and I'm so glad you're spreading the spider-gospel. 😋

!PIZZA

Hello, and thank you for the great comment. Before writing this post I never heard of button spiders. I have to confess to not knowing a lot about spiders. That is exactly why reading and writing about them will be interesting.

A spider that feeds milk to her young. Wow! Thanks for that. No matter how old I get, I will never cease to be amazed by the wonder of the world around us, so much of it still undiscovered.

Thanks for your visit, and your encouragement.

Please write more spider posts! This is exactly what Hive's arachnid community needs. Thank you for this!


I'd like to invite you to join our Arachnids community and share your arachnid content in cross-posts with us.

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Hello! Thank you for the invitation. I love the idea of a 'spider' community. I tried cross posting earlier but didn't see this community on the menu. Now it's there. Navigating the platform...I'm am not very nimble.

I will write more spider posts. I am a research maven, so this will be fun. Thanks again for the invite.

Excellent post @agmoore, a few weeks ago I was shared a video of a spider (black widow) feeding on a snake, it was really something surprising that video, as it is really difficult for a small spider to feed on an animal much larger than itself, but nature never ceases to amaze. Likewise, these spiders have one of the most powerful poisons in the world, so the snake had the bad luck to fall into its web or perhaps someone threw it.

I liked this post, I congratulate you for this good work!

Since you mentioned the spiders of the genus Latrodectus, here is an image where you can see the species of this genus.


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I thank you for the inspiration. Your blogs inspired me to write this one, so take a bow ;)) Insects/spiders are interesting, always have been.

The spiders actually ensnare the snakes in their webs and then disable them with a sting (venom). It seems to be a clear plan. Those spiders are smart. Are snakes? Another subject to look into (ha ha).

I really appreciate your kind words. You know so much about spiders, I am truly pleased.

Have a great, peaceful day.

It's not a big deal that the photos are someone else's. Your writing has given me joy. This is a different level of thinking

Hello @momins,
They are not my pictures, that is true. I'm not much of a photographer and I don't go out into the wild very much. I am quite mature (75 next month) so adventures in the rain forest are beyond me at this point in my life. I am grateful to people who share their wonderful photos with the world so we can all learn and enjoy them.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Beautiful and strange creatures best admired at a distance. Excellent research. Though to be honest, I find it difficult to read on this topic because all my mind is thinking is bite, bite, bite, bite, ouch...

bite, bite, bite, bite, ouch.

😂

I'm fascinated by spiders and snakes. I don't like them up close, though. Pictures are nice :)

Thanks for your visit and for your inevitably amusing comment.

😄

also black widow and especially tarantula can eat snake cobra. I like wildlife battle

Really? I was looking that up but couldn't find that specifically. But, I believe you. Isn't it amazing?

Thank you for visiting and commenting :)

It's pleasure 👍 I like nature facts, excellent

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great post but I don't like snakes and spiders cause they can kill but also save people with their venom
as always great post

I just looked that up. https://www.sciencefocus.com/nature/the-bite-that-cures-how-were-turning-venom-into-medicine/

Fascinating! Thanks for commenting and for the information :)

My pleasure 🥰

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