Can Spiders Eat Plants?
The spider’s sophisticated palate enables it to taste a wide variety of plant food. It can also absorb nutrients from plants. This may be an important trait for spiders to have when insects are scarce.
Researchers have documented cases of spiders eating pollen, seeds, sap, and nectar. Most species eat meat and insects. Some have found that ants are a staple in their diets.
One spider, Bhageera kiplingi, lives in Mexico and feeds on acacia tree nectar. Other species suck plant sap or pierce leaf tissues with chelicerae. They also swallow fungal spores and recycle proteins from their old webs.
A new study reports that more than 60 species of spiders worldwide are known to eat plants. The results were published in the April issue of the Journal of Arachnology.
The research team led by Martin Nyffeler from the University of Basel in Switzerland analyzed reports in a variety of sources. Their search included books and journals. In particular, they combed reports on plant-eating by spiders from tropical regions.
In the warmer climates, the activity was higher. Spiders can usually survive for up to 30 days without food. However, they cannot eat fruit, so they must rely on other resources.
According to the study, the Salticidae family (jumping spiders) accounted for the majority of reported plant-eating incidents. These species have a pair of big, shiny eyes, and over 5,000 species are spread across the world.
Among these species, Beltian spiders – which are known to eat ant larvae – have a difficult digestion process. Another spider, the orb-weaver, is a common consumer of pollen.