Researchers have recorded many cases of spiders killing and eating poisonous snakes many times larger in nature and in people’s homes.
Lead researcher Martin Nyffeler, a conservation biologist at Base University, and colleagues found 319 records of spiders killing and eating snakes, 297 of which occurred in the wild. About a third of cases come from scientific observations published in journals, with the rest reported through news or social networking sites.
Pictured is a black widow spider (Latrodectus geometricus) eating red snake (Cemophora coccinea) in Georgia, USA. The black widow spider’s venom contains the toxin α-latrotoxin, which targets the vertebrate nervous system, allowing the spider to kill prey many times larger. Photo: Daniel R. Crook.
Extremely venomous eyelid snake (Bothriechis schlegelii) caught in the web of a golden silk ball-weaving spider in Costa Rica. The snake is 40 cm long. Its venom is not nearly as useful in this situation. Researchers have not recorded any cases of snake bites and successful transmission of venom into spiders. Photo: Jonathan Sequeira.
The young oriental striped snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) found himself in a dangerous situation in Douglas, Georgia. The brown widow spider (Latrodectus geometricus) is ready to begin its rare meal of life. Photo: Julia Safer.
This is a battle between spiders and snakes in the forest in the Brazilian state of Pará. A tarantula spider (Theraphosa blondi) captures a false coral snake of the genus Oxyrhopus and brings it back to its den. Tarantulas do not spin webs, instead they hunt on the ground or in trees. Photo: Karl Cavalcante Pinto.
Adult female black widow spiders (Latrodectus hesperus) eat a young coral snake (Micruroides euryxanthus) near the Boyce Thompson Botanical Garden in Superior, Arizona, USA. The majority of snakes killed and eaten by spiders are young or immature, although there are many cases where snakes more than one meter long have lost their lives. Photo: Lawrence L.C. Jones.
Widow spiders account for about half of all snake killings. Pictured is a brown widow spider (Latrodectus geometricus) eating a common worm snake (Indotyphlops braminus) in Zaachila, Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo: Matias Martinez.
The three-step snake (Bothrops atrox) is a deadly venomous snake. However, in this photo taken in Venezuela, a giant bird-eating spider (Theraphosa blondi) easily defeats and eats the dangerous snake. Photo: Rick West.
Spiders don’t just hunt snakes in wild areas. The red snake (Cemophora coccinea) was forced to die in the corner of the porch in Gulf Breeze, Florida, USA, where the black widow spider ambushed. Photo: Trisha Haas.