A-z - Animals

Do tarantulas eat brown recluses, black widows, or other "bad" spiders?

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key point:

  • Tarantulas do not spin webs to catch prey. They are opportunistic hunters, preferring to chase their prey or ambush them near the mouth of their burrows.
  • There are more than 2,800 species of tarantulas found worldwide.
  • Tarantulas mainly eat ground-dwelling insects such as worms, ants, beetles, earwigs, aphids, millipedes, etc. However, their diet varies by climate and location.
  • In some cases, given the opportunity, tarantulas may go after larger spiders such as brown recluses, black widows, and other poisonous spiders.

Tarantulas are hairy arachnids in the tarantula family , a diverse family of arachnids with a global distribution. It includes about 124 genera and more than 2,800 species of tarantulas.

These spiders are found in different habitats along the coast and inland. They are commonly found in moist coastal forests, woodlands, scrubland, alpine meadows, and in suburban and garden dwellings.

Tarantulas do not spin webs to catch prey. They are opportunistic hunters, preferring to chase their prey or ambush them near the mouth of their burrows. Tarantulas are usually shy and introverted and will flee when disturbed.

Tarantulas are generally small, with most species measuring between 0.4 and 1.38 inches (10 and 35 mm) in length. The eight eyes are arranged in three rows and have excellent eyesight.

Like most spiders, tarantulas are primarily insectivores, and their diet consists primarily of insects. They have been known to inject venom into their prey and feed on it. But what about eating other venomous spiders? Do tarantulas eat brown recluses and black widows? Read on for more info!

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What Do Tarantulas Eat?

what tarantulas eat
Tarantulas eat ground-dwelling insects such as worms, ants, beetles, earwigs, aphids, and millipedes.

© iStock.com/Cathy Keifer

Tarantulas are primarily insectivores. They are characterized as generalist predators of small mollusk arthropods of the class Arachnida and Insecta. They mainly eat ground-dwelling insects such as worms, ants, beetles, earwigs, aphids, millipedes, etc. However, their diet varies by climate and location.

Tarantulas are also known to eat small frogs and toads. Their diverse diet allows them to live in almost any environment where small invertebrates are found.

Do tarantulas eat brown recluses, black widows, or other "bad" spiders?

tiger tarantula
Tarantulas prefer to hunt smaller spiders, sometimes even juvenile brown recluses and black widows.

© Judy Gallagher/Creative Commons – Licensed

Tarantulas will sometimes eat smaller spiders in their habitat, and prefer to hunt for spiders without proper defense mechanisms. In some cases, tarantulas may even go after larger spiders such as brown recluses, black widows, and other poisonous spiders if given the opportunity.

Brown recluse spiders are often mistaken for tarantulas due to their similar appearance. Both species are small insects of almost the same size found in the same habitat. The most obvious difference between the two is the number of eyes. Tarantulas have eight eyes, while brown recluse spiders only have six. Brown recluses are considered venomous compared to tarantulas, and their painful bites are believed to damage the skin and kill nerve cells.

Like brown recluse spiders, black widow bites are considered dangerous, especially if bitten by a female black widow spider. The black widow's venom is reportedly 15 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake. However, they release less venom than snakes, so their bites are rarely life-threatening.

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Tarantulas ambush brown recluses, black widows, and other venomous spiders without fear of being injected with venom. However, they will only eat this spider if their food options are very limited.

Tarantulas prefer to hunt smaller spiders, sometimes even juvenile brown recluses and black widows.

How Do Tarantulas Hunt?

ground tarantula
Most tarantulas wait near burrow entrances to ambush their prey.

©Lukas Jonaitis/Shutterstock.com

Tarantulas are opportunistic hunters. Most species wait near burrow entrances to ambush prey. Once they spot their prey, they will pounce on it from a great distance. Other tarantulas prefer to chase their prey. They are fast, strong and have excellent eyesight, which helps them spot prey from a distance. This feature gives them a great advantage over many other spiders with poor vision. This is also why other spiders are more likely to be eaten by tarantulas.

Once tarantulas have captured their prey, they pinch it down, roll it into a ball, or inject venom directly into its body to liquefy its organs. The tarantula then draws nutrients from its prey.

Tarantulas are more cautious when hunting other spiders. They use all their hunting skills to avoid endangering their lives, especially when they hunt down "bad" spiders. Rather than chasing other spiders, they prefer to wait to surprise an unsuspecting arachnid. The key to tarantulas is patience, which allows them to be successful when hunting other spiders. Once attacked, they quickly inject venom to paralyze other venomous spiders.

Dangerous spiders such as brown recluse and black widow spiders have enough venom to kill a tarantula. Therefore, if tarantulas choose to attack poisonous spiders, they must be careful not to be bitten.

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ice leopard
Arctic tarantulas are cannibals.

© D. Sikes/CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

Do tarantulas eat each other?

Sexual cannibalism is very common among spider families. The same thing happens to tarantulas, although it doesn't happen as much as in other spider families. Some female tarantulas eat male tarantulas immediately after breeding.

Competition among female tarantulas may increase if they produce more offspring, a study suggests. This triggers higher rates of cannibalism and reduces the number of hatchlings that survive to adulthood.

How long do tarantulas live?

For tarantulas, their lifespan depends on their sex. Males usually live up to 12 months or two years. Females, on the other hand, reach three years. The fact that they are actually capable of living for several years makes them luckier than men in this regard.

Next:

  • Tarantulas vs. Brown Recluses: Five Key Differences Explained: These Two Fearsome Spiders Are Often Confused – Learn To Tell Them Apart!
  • Tarantula Bite Treatment: What To Do If You've Been Bitten By A Tarantula: Follow These Instructions To Heal From A Spider Bite Fast!
  • Watch spiders hunt (and eat!) underwater by making your own oxygen tank: Who knew spiders were the Jacques Cousteau of the ocean? Watch this amazing video!

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tarantula
Tarantulas can jump.

© Katharina Christensen/Shutterstock.com


about the author

jeremiah wright


I have seven years of professional experience in the content field, focusing on nature and wildlife. Besides writing, I also enjoy surfing the Internet and listening to music.

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source
  1. Live Science, available here: https://www.livescience.com/39919-black-widow-spiders.html#section-how-toxic-is-the-black-widow-s-bite
  2. Science Direct, available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0733863518304996