Most wasps that attack spiders do it to feed their young. Adult wasps feed on nectar but young wasps need protein to grow. Spider wasps and mud daubers are common wasp species that eat spiders.
Wasps carry paralyzed spiders to their young or they lay eggs on top of a paralyzed spider so that a young wasp can use it as food.
This can be a one-time process or a repetitive process called progressive provisioning. Adult wasps never attack spiders to eat themselves as they can’t digest protein.
Do wasps eat spiders?
Only young wasps eat spiders. Adult wasps hunt and catch spiders to feed young wasps. It’s believed spiders provide the basic amino acids needed for a young wasp to grow.
Young wasps are also known for having enhanced salivary secretions that help them digest spiders, a quality not associated with adult wasps.
How Do Wasps Hunt Spiders?
Wasp hunt spiders and drag them back to a nest. Most hunting wasps hunt alone as they’re solitary insects.
The female spider can sting the spider. This paralyzes the spider as the female wasp doesn’t kill its prey on the spot.
Wasps then drag the spider to a nest. An underground spider nest is made up of multiple mud chambers.
Wasps drop a spider in each chamber and then lay an egg on top of it. The paralyzed spider is considered a source of nutrition for the emerging wasp larvae.
21 Wasps That Eat Spiders
The following spiders are known for eating spiders. In essence, adult wasps of the following species hunt and paralyze spiders without eating them as spiders are fed to young wasps.
1. Ceropales maculate
This wasp is a species of kleptoparasitic spider wasps.
This is known as a species that uses the food of another species.
The wasp hunts for other wasps that have already caught a spider. It lays an egg on top of the spider caught by another species then allowing for this spider to be transported back to the nest.
The emerging Ceropales maculate spider eats the egg of the host species inside the nest and the spider emerge as an adult wasp.
2. Zatypota percontatoria
This wasp is known as a species that lays eggs on top of paralyzed spiders. The mechanism through which this happens is believed to be based on hormones or polydnaviruses (insect viruses).
The larva fully controls the paralyzed spider until it emerges into an adult wasp. It’s believed larva controls the host spider through hormones to the extent in which the spider cannot attack the larva.
3. Leaden Spider Wasp
This type of wasp (Pompilus Cinereus) is known for preying on spiders of the Lycosidae family.
It looks for spiders on the sand where it stings and paralyzes them. The wasp then carries the spider in its mandibles to the nest’s entrance.
This is where the wasp will ensure the nest is clear and drag the spider inside. A single egg is laid on top of the spider. Leaden Spider Wasp only lays eggs on the abdomen of the spider.
4. Red Spider Wasp
The Red spider wasp (Sphictostethus Nitidus) is also known as the golden spider wasp. This species is widespread and it includes the common tarantula hawk.
The wasp is known for its ability to hunt and paralyze spiders. It approaches spiders until it reaches a comfortable leap distance so that it doesn’t miss its target.
The Red spider wasp then drags the paralyzed stung spider into a nest.
This species doesn’t build its nests but it looks for suitable cavities that act as nests. Sometimes the paralyzed spider is left on its back until the wasp finds a suitable cavity to act as a nest.
It then drags the spider in the cavity and lays an egg on top of it.
5. Organ Pipe Mud Dauber
The Organ pipe mud dauber (Trypoxylon Politum) is one of the docile wasps helping keep spider populations under control.
This species mainly catches Neoscona, Eustala, and Araneus spiders. It paralyzes them and lays an egg on them.
The wasp is also known for building complex mud nests. These nests are fortified with spiders. Eggs are laid in the nest before they are closed off.
The wasp can re-purpose the same nest in the following season or use mud to build a new one.
6. Entypus unifasciatus
These black wasps live in burrows. They are spider wasps in the family of Pompilidae.
Found in North America, they are known for living in burrows.
It’s in burrows that they deposit all spiders they paralyze to lay eggs on. Larvae feed on the spider over the winter emerging as full adult wasps in the spring.
7. Black-banded Spider Wasp
This wasp (Anoplius Viaticus) is instantly-recognizable by its all-black color.
As one of the spider wasps with a long body, the wasp is generally strong with the capacity to produce venom.
The wasp grows to a size of around 14mm and it stings spiders of the Wolf genus. Its venom is sufficient to paralyze Wolf spiders.
These spiders are dragged in burrows where the Black-banded Spider Wasp lays an egg on top.
One of the differentiating characteristics of the species is their ability to nest underground. These wasps are sheltered from bad weather which also makes them emerge sooner than other spider wasp species.
8. Pepsis grossa
Pepsis grossa is a type of wasps feeding on tarantula spiders. While these spiders are large, Pesis grossa spiders are skilled in paralyzing tarantulas and using them as a food source for larvae.
Pepsis grossa wasps first need to get tarantulas out of their nests. This is mainly done in certain periods of the day as the wasp is known for disliking very high heat and hunting out in the strong mid-day sun.
For this wasp to sting tarantulas it needs to find soft tissue on its body. Tarantulas only have soft tissue on the abdomen.
Pepsis grossa uses its antennae to mimic an attack on the tarantula. One of the defense mechanisms of tarantulas is to raise its body to appear bigger.
Once the tarantula has raised its front body to appear bigger the wasp gets the right opportunity to sting the spider in the abdomen.
Tarantulas then become paralyzed and dragged to the nest where a single egg is laid on the abdomen as food for young Pepsis grossa wasps.
9. Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga
The process of laying eggs is different from how other wasps do it. This species of wasp catches the spider on its web.
It stings and injects venom for up to 2 minutes to paralyze the spider. This is also the time when an egg is glued to the spider.
Eventually, the effect of the venom starts to wear off and the spider continues with its life for up to 4 weeks.
In this time, the egg turns to larvae and the larvae take control of the spider to an extent in which the spider spins a protective cocoon for the spider.
This cocoon-spinning action is different from all other spider webs the spider has built before. Furthermore, the spider will continue spinning the cocoon even if the larva is detached from it during the process.
Once larvae mature to a full wasp the host spider dies.
10. Auplopus albifrons
These wasps are known for building mud cells to lay eggs in. These cells are commonly seen in walls.
An egg and a spider are deposited in each cell before they are closed off.
The female wasp is responsible for paralyzing the spider and dragging it to the mud cell.
One of the distinct characteristics of these species is that the wasp amputates the legs of the spiders to carry it easier.
11. Sceliphron asiaticum
These wasps also collect mud to create cells to lay eggs in, similar to Auplopus albifrons. The wasp is known for feeding running spiders to its larva.
It lays eggs and caught spiders in underground cells. Up to 80 spiders emerge from these cells after pupation.
12. Sceliphron laetum
These mud dauber wasps also use spiders to feed their young.
The female wasp builds mud cells where eggs and spiders are laid. Extra mud is then used to seal off the cell.
The wasp builds up to 8 cells at a time to lay 8 eggs in. 8 spiders are needed for each of these eggs.
13. Polysphincta Boops
These wasps only use spiders of the Araniella species to feed their young. These orb-weaver spiders feed wasp larvae.
It takes time for the larvae to become full adult wasps. The larva overwinters with the spider before emerging as a full adult wasp.
14. Rusty Spider Wasp
The Rusty Spider Wasp (Tachypompilus Ferrugineus) is known for hunting and paralyzing very large spiders. It commonly takes on large spiders which are used as food for its larva.
These wasps are often seen around homes dragging large spiders. They drag them back towards the nest.
The number of eggs laid at a time is generally unknown for this species.
15. European Wasp
The European wasp (Vespula germanica) or the German yellowjacket is an opportunistic species. It has a wide diet which often includes spiders.
These wasps have been shown to eat spiders, bees, and even other wasps. Interestingly, they also eat dead insects and garbage when hungry.
Fruits and honeydew are also among the preferred nutrients of the European wasp.
16. Red-legged Spider Wasp
These species (Episyron rufipes) live in burrows where it lays eggs. It catches Meta and Araneus spiders used as food for its young wasps.
Sometimes the wasps catch spiders without having their burrows ready. This is where the spider can be hanged off a plant until the burrow is ready.
Another female wasp may try to steal the prey spider in the meantime.
17. Red-tailed Spider Wasp
This species (Tachypompilus analis) is known for using Hunstman spiders as food for their young.
The wasps attack these spiders while on their spider webs. They continue attacking the spiders until they fall on the ground so they can sting and paralyze them easier.
Once paralyzed, the spiders are taken to underground burrows. Wasps sometimes fold their legs so they fit these burrows where eggs are laid on the spiders/
18. Rain Spider Wasp
These wasps (Tachypompilus Ignitus) capture rain spiders to feed their young.
They are found all over the world, including in Africa. After consuming the spider’s larva is ready to turn into adult wasps.
Male wasps emerge first. They circle the nest and await females to emerge and mate with them.
19. Orange Spider Wasp
Wolf spiders are the primary target of the Orang Spider Wasp (Cryptocheilus Bicolor).
These wasps use these jumping spiders as food for their young. Once larva pupates the young wasps emerge and there’s not much left of the Wolf spider which has been consumed.
20. Mason Wasp
Adult Mason wasps (Pison Spinolae) mainly eat nectar. Young Mason wasps need protein to develop and grow.
These wasps create nests in the ground where spiders are fed to their young.
Adult wasps sting and paralyze the spider before placing it in an underground chamber nest with its eggs. The spider does not decay while being consumed by the larvae.
21. Black Hunting Wasp
Black Hunting Wasps only eat nectar as well. However, they prey on large spiders to feed their young.
Mygalomorphs are among the preferred types of spiders hunted by these wasps.
This large black wasp species are found in New Zealand
Most wasps only eat spiders in their pre-adulthood life. Adult wasps prefer to eat nectar. However, adult wasps often hunt, sting, and paralyze small and large spiders to feed their young.
Some wasps such as Tarantula hawks only prey on certain species of spiders while others consider different spider species. Kleptoparasitic wasps stand out among wasps as they can often steal the paralyzed spider of another species instead of preying its own.
Almost all wasps that eat spiders drag them back to a nest or a burrow where they lay an egg on them. Only a small number of wasps (mainly kleptoparasitic wasps) lay eggs on the spider before it reaches the nest.