Study Finds Some Spiders Also Consume Plant Food

Posted on March 14, 2016

Jumping spider drinking plant nectar from a shrub

Zoologists from the University of Basel, Brandeis University and Cardiff University have revealed that some spiders also consume the occasional vegetarian meal. Spiders are best known for being insect catching predators but some species will also eat plant food such as nectar, plant sap, honeydew, leaf tissue, pollen and seeds. The jumping spider above is drinking nectar from a shrub.

The researchers gathered and documented numerous examples from literature of spiders eating plant food. Spiders from ten families have been reported feeding on a wide variety of different plant types. These include trees, shrubs, weeds, grasses, ferns and orchids.

The spider group most frequently observed eating plants are Salticidae. This is a diurnal spider family known for its large anterior median eyes. Salticidae were involved of 60% off all the plant-eating incidents documented during the study.

Martin Nyffeler from the University of Basel in Switzerland says in a statement, "The ability of spiders to derive nutrients from plants is broadening the food base of these animals; this might be a survival mechanism helping spiders to stay alive during periods when insects are scarce. In addition, diversifying their diet with plant is advantageous from a nutritional point of view, since diet mixing is optimizing nutrient intake."

The research paper was published here in the Journal of Arachnology.

Photo: David E. Hill, Peckham Society, Simpsonville, South Carolina