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The Vegetarian Spider

Are there spiders that eat vegetarian food?

Spiders feed mainly on small insects. Larger spiders also prey on worms, snails, or even small vertebrates like frogs, lizards, birds, and bats. In any case, however, it is always living beings that are on their menu. Always? One species of spider seems different...

Bagheera KiplingiBagheera Kiplingi - Photo: ©2008 Robert L. Curry

A Spider That Eats Plants...

There are over 40,000 types of spider on the Earth - but only one of them is a vegetarian! It is the bagheera kiplingi spider, that was named after the panther Bagheera from The Jungle Book. It’s part of the jumping spider family, which is found in Mexico and Costa Rica. But you wouldn't hear the sentence "One tofu steak, half done please!" from it. Bagheera kiplingi may be a vegetarian but you won’t find it eating veggie burgers or tofu steaks. It’s favorite treats are the buds of the acacia plant.

Unfortunately for the veggie spider, the acacia is tightly guarded by ants that also eat the plant. The ants defend “their” plant against newcomers with acid, and will even stand in the way of large spiders. In this photo, you’ll see an adult female bagheera kiplingi.


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...and Flees From Ants

For the bagheera kiplingi, the search for food has become like running a gauntlet. They have to give the ants the slip, hop from leaf to leaf and only relax in areas less tightly guarded by the ants. A spider on the hunt for buds and running to escape ants - bit weird, isn’t it?

Vegetarian Spider Vegetarian Spider - Illustration: Silke/tierchenwelt.de

Part-Time Vegetarian

There are a few other kinds that have vegetarian snacks sometimes. The crab spider likes to slurp up plant nectar and some baby spiders feed on spores that get stuck in webs. But the bagheera kiplingi is the only spider that only ever eats vegetarian.



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