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What Do Jumping Spiders Eat in the Wild and as Pets?
We all know that spiders are incredibly important bugs. We appreciate everything that they do for the world, but we just don’t want to get too close to them! So as long as that spider stays over there, we’ll be fine. But did you know that some spiders can jump?
As it turns out, jumping spiders are quite common, both in the wild and as pets. Of course, if you’re thinking about keeping one as a pet, you’ll need to know what they eat first.
What Are Jumping Spiders?
Before we go on, we should first define what a jumping spider is. Jumping spiders are actually a family of spiders, specifically, the Salticidae family. There are over 6,000 species of jumping spiders in the world, representing 13% of all spider species.
As a result, there will be quite a bit of variation between different species, as they live in different places and eat different things. We can still draw a few general conclusions about their diet, however.
Where Do Jumping Spiders Live?
Spiders live almost everywhere on Earth, with the exception of the polar regions and the oceans (although some species have invaded parts of the water).
Since jumping spiders represent a sizable minority of all spider species, they can be found almost everywhere too. The bulk of all jumping spider species can be found in tropical rainforests, but some species can also be found in deserts, on plains, and even in places as remote as the slopes of Mt. Everest.
There’s one place that they definitely don’t live, however: in webs. These spiders never spin webs to catch their prey, preferring instead to hunt on foot. They’ll use their amazing eyesight to spot and track a tasty little bug and then jump on them and eat them.
While they don’t spin webs, some species still use silk. Spitting spiders, for example, will spit silk on their victims, which will then immobilize them so the spider can eat at its leisure. The bolas spider, on the other hand, will spin a long strand of silk with a ball at the end that they’ll use to literally fish for prey.
What Do Jumping Spiders Eat in the Wild?
Given that there are thousands of different species of jumping spiders, it would be impossible to list all the critters that have been known to fall victim to these leaping predators. As a general rule, though, they’ll eat anything smaller than they are (and maybe even a few things larger).
They love flying insects like moths and flies, though they usually prefer for them to land rather than tackle them in midair. Crawling bugs like beetles and ants make tasty morsels, and some spiders have even been known to dine on nectar and pollen.
Many jumping spiders are also cannibalistic, so even spiders should be afraid of spiders.
Jumping spiders usually prefer to perch themselves up high on a branch or blade of grass, so they can have a clear view of the terrain in front of them. Then, once they spot something tasty moving around, they’ll jump on it, bite it quickly in order to inject paralyzing venom, and then feast when their quarry stops moving.
- Related Read: What Do Tarantulas Eat in the Wild & as Pets?
What Role Do Jumping Spiders Play in Their Ecosystem?
Spiders play an essential role in the ecosystem. Without spiders, insect populations would explode.
That’s good news for humans, as spiders are one of the primary predators of bugs like mosquitoes. Without our arachnid friends to keep them in check, these disease-spreading bugs would proliferate, causing untold human casualties.
They’re also good for farmers because they can munch on pests like grasshoppers, aphids, and caterpillars. Spiders can prevent crop damage, which can then reduce the risk of famine.
In fact, it’s estimated that spiders could eat as much as 800 million tons of bugs every year. That’s a ton of creepy-crawlies, so maybe spiders don’t deserve their bad rap after all.
Then again, scientists also estimate that spiders could theoretically eat every single human on Earth in a year too!
What Animals Eat Jumping Spiders?
Spiders are clearly efficient predators, but that doesn’t mean that they’re invulnerable to becoming lunch themselves.
There are quite a few animals that snack on spiders, including lizards, frogs, birds, and other spiders. In fact, many female spiders will eat their partners after mating, which both reduces and increases the spider population, if you think about it.
Wasps might be the creepiest spider predators on the planet. Many parasitic wasps will sting a spider in order to paralyze it, then lay an egg inside the spider’s body. As the egg matures into a larva, the baby wasp will eat the immobilized spider while it’s still alive.
In some places, like Cambodia, spiders are eaten by humans. You can get a deep-fried spider on many street corners, and live spiders are often mixed into rice wine. The belief is that it creates a medicinal liquor.
The good news is that if you’ve ever heard that humans swallow eight spiders a year in their sleep, it turns out that that’s not true.
What Do Jumping Spiders Eat When Kept as Pets?
If you keep a jumping spider as a pet and are not sure what to feed them, the good news is that just like in the wild, they’ll eat almost any insect that’s smaller than they are. That doesn’t mean you should feed them just anything, however.
You can feed your spider virtually any insect that’s commonly sold in pet stores, including flies, crickets, wax worms, and roaches. You might want to get gut-loaded insects, which are bugs that have been fed important nutrients that the spider may not otherwise be able to get in its diet.
There are a few things that you shouldn’t feed your spider, though. This includes any bugs that might eat spiders, like praying mantises, ants, or assassin bugs, and any insect that you’ve caught yourself.
The problem with wild-caught bugs is that you don’t know where they’ve been, and they may have been exposed to insecticides or other chemicals that could harm or kill your spider.
Luckily, buying bugs at the store isn‘t that expensive, so you shouldn’t have to stoop to grabbing a butterfly net just to feed your pet.
- See Also: 11 Largest Spider Species in the World
Jumping Spiders Aren’t Picky Eaters
If you want to keep a jumping spider as a pet, you’ll likely find that they’re easy to care for, partly because they’re not picky eaters. You may even start to think of them as cute over time!
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay
Quincy has been around mutts his entire life and has been writing about them for the past nine years and now consists of sharing a house with three spoiled pups who couldn’t hold down a job to save their lives. Quincy never intended to be a cat person. When his wife brought home a kitten one day, he told her she had one week to find it a new home. That week turned into 10 years (his wife moves very slowly), and that kitten turned into three (they got two more, the kitten didn’t self-replicate). After a decade of sharing his home with the dogs and three cats, one horrifying realization finally set in: oh God, he’s a cat person now too, isn’t he???