Pest control isn't always conducted by people. Sometimes nature has its own system of control. For example, the nine critters listed below all prey on spiders. That's good news for the millions of people around the world who are afraid of spiders. That fear—known as arachnophobia—is so common, that it is considered to be one of the top 10 phobias around the world.
As with most phobias, it doesn't really help most sufferers to know that nearly all spiders are harmless, or that they themselves are predators for any number of nuisance insects, from buzzing house flies to aphids and beetles that feast on your garden plants. If you have a fear of spiders, it is hard to change your feeling about these eight-legged creatures. So pest control readers who are not only squeamish but positively fearful about even the smallest of spiders will be pleased to know that nature has its own way of handling them.
In no particular order, the top spider predators include:
- Lizards. Geckos and chameleons are common lizards of the southern U.S. that feed on spiders as well as other small insects. A study by scientists from the University of California showed that lizards are so voracious when it comes to spiders that they can eradicate them in controlled environments. When scientists introduced lizards to several of the Bahama Islands to attempt to control orb spiders, an invasive, non-native species, within five years the spiders were eradicated on all islands where the lizards were present.
- Birds. It comes as no surprise that birds are a significant threat to spiders of virtually all kinds (except perhaps the extremely large spiders, such as tarantulas). In fact, some of the most common birds of the U.S., such as robins and wrens, routinely make meals out of spiders. But small birds that prey on spiders also have to be careful that they don't get caught in the sticky webs—although the spiders rarely eat birds they snare. A garden that is full of song birds rarely has problems with spiders, and even domestic birds kept indoors have been known to feed on spiders if they are given free flight opportunities.
- Tarantula hawks. This is actually a wasp, not a bird, but the tarantula hawk does hunt down tarantulas in their burrows. The wasp "knocks" on the spider's web to attract attention, then, when the tarantula appears, it paralyzes the spider with a sting and drags the tarantula to its own burrow to feed to its young.
- Spider wasps. The larger family of insects to which the tarantula wasp belongs are the spider wasps. The females of each species sting and paralyze the spiders for feeding to their young, but each has a different way of getting the spider to its nest. Some carry the spider, some drag it, some pull it across the water, and others fly with it. But regardless of the method of transport, the end result is the same: fewer spiders for you to deal with.
- Monkeys. Though it may not be the most practical of matters to keep a monkey in your home to keep spider populations down, there are a number of species of monkeys that do enjoy a bite or two of spider at meal time.
- Centipedes. Although they are often considered even more repulsive than the spiders themselves, this many-legged arthropod can actually be a control against spiders in your home, Centipedes are carnivorous and use their claws to paralyze spiders and other small creatures.
- Scorpions. Although they rarely attack humans except in self-defense, scorpions generally create as much—or more—fear for humans than do spiders. But if you are arachnophobic, you may still prefer the slight threat of an accidental scorpion sting to the panic-inducing sight of a spider.
- Other spiders. Some spiders feed on their own kind—preying on and eating other spiders. This can actually be beneficial to humans because it is often the non-threatening spiders that feed on those that can be dangerous to humans. For example, the innocuous daddy long leg spider feeds on both the hobo spider and black widow spider.
Piovia‐Scott, Jonah et al. "The Effect Of Lizards On Spiders And Wasps: Variation With Island Size And Marine Subsidy". Ecosphere, vol 8, no. 8, 2017. Wiley, doi:10.1002/ecs2.1909.
Martin Nyffeler, Çağan H. Şekercioğlu, Christopher J. Whelan. Insectivorous birds consume an estimated 400–500 million tons of prey annually. The Science of Nature, 2018; 105 (7-8) DOI: 10.1007/s00114-018-1571-z