What Do Huntsman Spiders Eat?

What Exactly Is a Huntsman Spider?

You’ve probably heard of black widows and brown recluses, but do you know what a huntsman spider is?

Learn more about these fascinating arachnids, and find out whether or not you should try to avoid them.

A huntsman spider, which is most prominent in Australia, is one of the many species of spiders belonging to the Sparassidae family. These spiders are known for their size and immense leg spans. In fact, they’re so large that they are often mistaken for tarantulas. One key difference in these two arachnids is that huntsman spiders have crab-like legs that extend out — rather than under — their bodies. It’s because of their legs that huntsman spiders are sometimes called giant crab spiders.

So, exactly how massive are these creatures? Well, the average huntsman spider’s legs may reach as far as 5 inches from its body. However, some giant huntsman spiders have legs that can span as much as 12 inches.

Where Do Huntsman Spiders Live?

Huntsman spiders can be found in tropical and temperate regions in the world.

As mentioned before, these arachnids are especially prominent in Australia, where residents are used to dealing with them regularly. In the United States, however, some smaller species of Huntsman spiders can be found in the southern half of the country, in states such as Florida, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina. And these are just a sampling of the states in which you’ll find a huntsman spider. If a state has a warm enough winter to allow huntsman spiders to survive, they’ve generally got no problem sticking around.

What Do Huntsman Spiders Eat?

Huntsman spiders feed on a variety of insects, such as caterpillars, moths, cockroaches and other spiders.

So, how does a huntsman spider catch its prey? Well, this family of arachnids came by its name honestly. Unlike other spiders, huntsman spiders do not spin webs to trap unsuspecting prey. They hunt down their meals.

These critters are actually very quick, moving at speeds of up to one yard per second. If you ever see a huntsman spider running, it’s likely chasing down a meal. Once the arachnid has caught the insect that’s destined to become dinner, it will inject the prey with an immobilizing venom.

Will Huntsman Spiders Harm Me?

While these arachnids are big, you’re still bigger, so most huntsman spiders will likely try to run away rather than bite. At the same time, they are capable of doling out painful bites if you try to handle them or inadvertently disturb them in their hiding places. Though there have been reports of people being bitten by huntsman spiders, there’s no indication that they use their venom in defensive strikes, according to the Queensland Museum in Australia.

Looking for more information about cool arachnids? Check out this post on jumping spiders or learn why scorpions glow.

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Huntsman Spider

The Huntsman spider is a swift, efficient predator, that comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They are also known as “giant crab spiders,” “wood spiders,” “rain spiders,” and “lizard-eating spiders.”

All Hunstmans are members of the Sparassidae family, and there are over 1,200 different species. The largest species of spider in the world (based on leg-span) is the giant huntsman spider. Read on to learn about the huntsman spider.

Description of the Huntsman Spider

Huntsman spiders have a somewhat crab-like appearance because of their forward-facing legs. Most species are brown or grey, with extremely long legs. They can range anywhere from an inch or smaller to nearly a foot across with their legs stretched. That’s a terrifyingly large spider! They use those long legs to speed in pursuit of small prey.

Interesting Facts About the Huntsman Spider

With such a wide variety of species, there are virtually endless facts about huntsman spiders. Learn more about these unique creatures and voracious predators below.

  • Harmless to Humans – The vast majority of species are harmless to humans. Though they have venom, it is mild compared to many other spider species. Most bites are about as painful as a bee sting, but some are more severe.
  • Biggest Spider, Sort Of – Though the giant huntsman spider takes the prize for largest leg span, they aren’t quite the largest spiders in the world. Goliath birdeaters are much heavier, and have larger bodies, than giant huntsman spiders.
  • Webless Spider – Instead of building a web to capture prey, these arachnids wander the ground in search of their food. This is where their long legs come in handy! They are extremely fast, and this allows them to outrun their prey.

Habitat of the Huntsman Spider

Huntsmans prefer hiding in dark places until nighttime. They are very commonly found hiding under tree bark, in woodpiles, mine shafts, homes, and even cars. Their range is usually restricted to tropical and warm temperate regions. Some species can be found in colder climates as well.

Distribution of the Huntsman Spider

The wide variety of species can be found in a number of different locations. Different species are found virtually worldwide within tropical and temperate climates. They can be found in Australia, the Americas, the Mediterranean Basin, Africa, Guam, India, and Asia. A number of species have been accidentally introduced to subtropical areas as well.

Diet of the Huntsman Spider

Huntsman spiders will eat a wide variety of prey, as long as it is small enough for them to catch. They are opportunistic, and can feed on anything that they are capable of capturing. Prey usually includes a wide variety of insects, arthropods, lizards, amphibians, and more. They stalk and chase their prey rather than using a web to capture it.

Huntsman Spider and Human Interaction

When cornered these arachnids will defend themselves viciously. They are not venomous enough to require hospitalization, but bites are very painful and can cause other side effects. Females protecting their eggs are extremely aggressive and known to bite. The rate of bites is higher than some other spider species because they tend to grab onto the surface when they are pulled on.

Domestication

Huntsman spiders have not been domesticated in any way.

Does the Huntsman Spider Make a Good Pet

If you are so inclined, perhaps they can make good, hands-off, pets. However, their bite is quite painful.

Huntsman Spider Care

In human care these spiders must be kept in a secure enclosure, as they are very capable of climbing walls and ceilings. They should be provided plenty of hiding places for them to retreat to during the day. They can be fed on a variety of small insects. Different species have different needs, so it is important to do adequate research before purchasing one as a pet.

Behavior of the Huntsman Spider

Most of these creatures are solitary, and rarely interact with one another outside of breeding. They are reclusive during the day, and more active at night. During the day it is not uncommon for them to hide in tree bark, wood piles, forests, sheds, houses, cars, and more. At night they wander in search of prey, which they will stalk and chase to capture.

Reproduction of the Huntsman Spider

The many different species have a wide variety of mating behaviors. Females rarely attack the males after breeding, unlike some other spider species. After breeding, the female will produce an egg sac wrapped carefully in silk. This egg sac can contain up to 200 eggs. Most species will protect their egg sac until it hatches, viciously attacking any who get too close.

animals.net

Huntsman Spiders Are Great (No, Really)

Australia’s huntsman spiders are the stuff of myths and nightmares. But, they also hold a super interesting place in the pantheon of Australian wildlife. So, if one somehow catches your eye, or sneaks up on your shoe (brrr), try not to squish it to its death.

I study the behavioural ecology of these remarkable spiders. Elsewhere in the world I don’t tell people that I study spiders for a living, but in Australia, I confess that I do brag a little about being a huntsman specialist.

First, let’s talk numbers: there are currently 1207 species of huntsman spider in the Family Sparassidae, out of the total 45,881 described spider species worldwide. It is estimated that there are 155 huntsman spider species found throughout Australia.

Of those, approximately 95 species are found only in Australia. All of these are probably descended from a single common ancestor that immigrated from Papua New Guinea or elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

A female Beregama aurea, Australia’s largest huntsman (Linda S. Rayor)

Big, and fast

Huntsmen are big spiders. There are a few relatively small Aussie species, such as the tiny (non-endemic) amazingly camouflaged lichen spider (Pandercetes gracilis). But many of the endemics are sizeable animals that can weigh 1-2 grams and may be as big as the palm of your hand.

The world’s second largest species, the massive Golden Huntsman (Beregama aurea) from tropical Queensland, weighs over 5.5 grams. An adult’s forelegs may stretch 15 cm, and they lay egg sacs the size of golf balls.

Anyone who has chased a leggy huntsman knows that they are exceptionally fast. We have been measuring the running speed of the endemic huntsman species.

The top speed demons are both sizeable animals from tropical Queensland, Holconia hirsuta and Beregama aurea, who run 42 or 31 body lengths per second, respectively. Compare this to the world-record-holding human, Usain Bolt, who runs at a sluggish 5.2 body lengths per second.

These are some of the fastest spiders recorded in the world. The slow pokes, the rotund but colorful Badge huntsman (Neosparassus species), only run 16 body lengths per second.

Perhaps it just wants a hug?

Huntsmen are long-lived for spiders, with most living for about 2.5 years. Although some other primitive spiders (such as tarantulas) can live up to 20 years, most other spiders live less than a year.

All huntsman spiders are active at night, emerging from their retreats to forage for insects and other invertebrates, and occasionally small vertebrates. They are ambush predators, generally sitting and waiting for prey to come close before running and leaping on it.

Huntsmen don’t use webs, but use a combination of vibrations and vision to locate their prey. Consider the huntsman a small workforce of natural insect exterminators in your house and garden.

See also:  What Do Jumping Spiders Eat?

During the day, most huntsman prefer to rest in retreats under bark, crevices, or other protected areas. This is why so many people encounter the spiders under the sun visors of their cars or behind curtains in their homes, because those are perfect tight spaces for a sleepy spider.

Depending on where you live, different huntsman species tend to wander inside. In Canberra, I have no idea where the medium-sized Isopedella pessleri actually live in the wild, because they are most often caught indoors.

The family that preys together, stays together

In order to mate with virgin females, male huntsman often search out females that are not quite mature and guard them for long periods. All huntsman females are attentive mothers who actively guard their egg sacs and new born offspring for around three weeks. But for most huntsman species, these are the only social interactions they experience in their entire lives.

But the social huntsman, Delena cancerides, lives in complex family groups up to 150 strong, led by a dominant matriarch. A single mum establishes a retreat under bark of a dead tree. Then her offspring from one to four clutches remain with her until they reach sexual maturity at almost a year old. Peeling off bark to find a family of these spiders can be quite a shock.

These social huntsman aren’t found in our homes, although I’ve heard of them establishing colonies under window shutters. One long-lived colony was in a backyard where the bark retreat had been affixed in place by a laundry line.

Our research shows that having older siblings in the group brings big payoffs to younger animals, as they can share prey with their more capable older siblings.

Conflict and cooperation in Australian huntsman spiders.

Why should large spiders remain at home with mum and siblings, when they can clearly fend for themselves? It turns out that there simply aren’t enough suitable under bark retreats for D. cancerides to occupy. We find that in most habitats, sufficiently large retreats are rare.

As a result, there is strong competition among D. cancerides for each retreat, and larger females can displace smaller females. We believe that by remaining in the protected shelter of home until they are young adults, the spiders are larger and more competitive in the battle over bark retreats which are an absolute necessity for raising their own young.

The social huntsman spiders, Delena cancerides, are found under the bark of dead trees. The mother (on the left) may have four clutches of young who remain with her until they reach sexual maturity. This means that spiders of all sizes interact with each other through their development.

Don’t throw a wobbly and hurt a huntsman

What should you do if you do find a big spider in your car or living room? First, get a grip! She isn’t going to hurt you.

Second, find a take-away container, scoop the spider into the container and release it outside. Huntsman spiders almost never bite humans since they rely on speed to escape most predators. When they do bite, most bites are quick defensive nips without injecting venom.

In 14 years of studying Aussie huntsman spiders, I’ve handled many thousands of individuals and been bitten only 11 times when I (mostly) deserved it. Their fangs are big enough to break skin, but the venom rarely has much effect.

An exception is the Badge huntsman which is reputed to have a more potent venom, so simply use a container to move them.

It might be a hard one to do if you’re scared of creepy crawlies, but treasure your huntsman spiders if you can. They deserve a place alongside koalas and kangaroos as iconic Australian wildlife even if they aren’t as cute or cuddly.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

Comments

Thanks for taking the time to write a very informative article.

But.
In 1977 I was forced to sit thru the excremental Kingdom of the Spiders starring William Shatner.

After that I decided the only good spider is a dead spider.

My five point Spider Survival Guide. in ascending order of effectiveness,

1. Pea Beu
2. Mortein
3. Black Flag
4. Raid
5. Large Hammer

ps: here in SA there are more Redbacks than people

That’s because redbacks don’t care how boring the place they’re living is.

And also because most sane humans don’t want to live in SA.

sorry, tell me about the cost of living compared to other states again?

Cost shmost, I’d pay to live in a better place than Adelaide.

oh, you’re one of those. carry on.

Glad you could recognise your superior.

actually, it was a nod to your narrow mindedness and unreasoning. and any further attempts to get a decent answer out of you would be pointless as your ‘type’ cant be reasoned with, thus me telling you to carry on while i give up due to it being like talking to a brick wall.

I know it is a couple of months late, but where is your sense of tradition..Number 1 should always be and is the great aussie «thong» (the one for the foot..not the other one..)

I don’t even bother putting them outside. If they want to get up during the night and chase down silverfish and other bugs around my house they’re welcome to as many as they can catch.

Ok, I get that they’re great for killing nuisance insects and such around the house, but that still doesn’t make me want them around.

I HATE them. They scare the shit outta me. I had an incident not long ago where I had three different ones three nights in a row in my house. I know because I vacuumed up each one and threw it in the trash outside. Yes I vacuumed them. I need a olongapo pole because I’m too scared to go near them.

Turns out there must have been a nest in my garage and they were waltzing into my house during the night because I left the garage door open for my cat to access her newly moved kitty litter tray.

Anyway. Kill them with fire!

Are those poles made in Olongapo? Are there many huntsman spider in Olongapo? Seems like a very specific market they’re trying to fill.

Usually the bigger the spider the less dangerous it is to humans. it is the smaller White Tails, red backs and funnel web spiders that are far more dangerous than the nearly harmless Huntsman. I find one, pick it up and take it outside.

Funnelwebs small? Mate, you have obviously never lived in Sydney and had one of these small dog sized terrors walking up your curtains. Easily comparable to a hunstman in leg spread size, but with a much, much larger body.

Funnel webs aren’t that big dude, you’re mistaking it for another spider. Funnel webs are only about 4-5cm long.

Their bodies are about that long. With the legs on them as well, they can be quite similar in size to a decent huntsman.

They really aren’t comparable in size to a huntsman. Still an above average size for a spider mind you, but not huntsman size.

I guess it depends on the size of huntsman you’re used to.

Annoying when people call them tarantulas

I love a good huntsman. We had a rather small huntsman that lived behind our bathroom mirror with only three legs. We named it Jake (the peg, long before Rolf Harris was revealed to have done some pretty awful things he was well liked in our household). After a few weeks of eating our mosquitoes it eventually wandered into the web of a particularly large daddy-long-legs and was itself eaten which was a surprisingly sad occurrence to come home to.

I’ve never hurt a huntsman and never will, they are bloody beautiful animals, cool to read an article about them from the perspective of someone that knows a thing or two about them, I never knew they lived so long.

I had one living in my room years ago. One night it was doing laps running around on the old 34cm TV I had — up and down the aerial end to end.
Arachnaphobes may want to avoid these.
http://www.users.on.net/

See also:  When Spider Bites What Happens?

I don’t mind them much now, but hated them as a kid. Had a big one go up the *inside* of my trouser leg. Fastest I’ve ever got a pair of pants off let me tell you. Used to have tons of them on our property at Nanango. I remember when Dad was clearing the property of the old dead trees he’d push a tree over and the bark would fly off and out would scurry literally a dozen big spiders. The magpies and butcher birds had a field day.

White tails are harmless. Funnel webs are large spiders as well. Check your facts.

Hunstman are the spawn of Satan and must die, preferably via tactical nuclear weapon.

Their fangs are big enough to break skin, but the venom rarely has much effect.
That’s unaustralian. most australian fauna will kill with extreme prejudice.

Typical of the totally pathetic ignorance, selfishness and stupidity of the majority of people who INCORRECTLY think they have a right to kill creatures which are HARMLESS to humans.
Those humans should be squished, poisoned and splattered in defence of the spiders they kill.
Spiders only attack when provoked, and the human race would be eliminated completely within 5 years if it wasn’t for spiders killing bugs which are HARMFUL to humans.

Great article. Good on all those who think they’re awesome because they justify killing them cause «they scary!»

Like others here, if you kill a huntsman shame on you.

As a kid, I would catch a Huntsman, ball it up into my mouth, then tap other kids on the shoulder, open my mouth and enjoy their screams as it ran out and across my face.

I was probably lucky I was never bitten.

loving all the softcocks that are so scared of spiders they have to play it off with ‘only good spider is a dead spider’. bravo ladies, bravo.

Your toxic sexism is pathetic. Grow up, kid.

thus me telling you to carry on while i give up due to it being like talking to a brick wall.
And yet here you are still blabbing on like someone gives a shit about your two cents. Lol.

We just had one hot day amidst a week of rain and on that one day a giant female decided to make a run for it into our garage. I’ve been scared of spiders since I was little but over the years have grown out of my fears — especially for Huntsmen. Anyway I was trying to get her onto a broom so I could take her back outside to an insect riddden bush and noticed she was very sluggish — like she was drunk or couldnt be bothered defending herself. Would like to know why. She had no interest at all in aggression or defense. Was a bit worried about her so we’ve been keeping an eye on her bush ever since lol. A few years ago I would have just nuked the house.

We have a huntsman guarding a nest in the cupboard I’d love to relocate outdoors, is there a way I can safely move her and her babies?

I never kill huntsmen. I catch them and put them outside.

Only white tip spiders, and red backs get the killing treatment.

flames are incredibly efficient and non toxic at offing an arachnid. it only takes a split second pass of a naked flame and they instantly curl up.

You’re right about the natural insect repellent thing. We were chasing Gerald at work for 3 days and I finally caught him one morning while he was chilling on my monitor. He didn’t put up a fight while I shoved him in the container and released him at the Neighbour’s. The joke was on us eventually. Not a week had past since Gerlad moved in next door, and we got all of their cockroaches.

Have had a love and not so loved relationship with Huntsman’s
As small child always told they were harmless. At aged 8 found one on back looking decidedly dead. Poked gently with index finger (stupid but hey 8 years of age and trusting) only to have all 8 legs firmly grasp said finger (very unpleasant sensation) and receive a sharp nip (a far more unpleasant sensation) which drew tiny spot of blood and slightly swollen finger for a couple days.
As an adult seem to be a magnet for them. Im sure they aren’t deliberately seeking me out but feels like it.
Sat down at dining table with freshly made roll on plate on lap only to have large Huntsman drop from underside of table onto top of roll, all roll contents and plate went flying as did me. Next encounter had shower washing hair, put on jeans and top sat down to blow dry long hair when I felt furry blob in jeans lower left leg. Grasped jeans round mid leg area to prevent spider running up and eventually it crawled out one long leg emerging after another dragging enlarged abdomen from lower end of jeans till whole body out then I stomped leg on floor and spider fell off me running one way and it another. A couple days later was vacuuming and I don’t know where the Huntsman came from, but ran up length of vacuum pole TOWARDS me, I did a runner (yes I chicken but vivid memory of spider nip as a child) A few nights later went to bed and awoke to activity of cats on bed, I looked up at ceiling and here’s a Huntsman abseiling down from ceiling on a single strand of web (I didn’t know these spiders had any capacity to make even a single thread) straight for my face. I launched horizontally to well out of reach of spider. Not a week later went to hop in shower and pulled aside shower curtain and out dropped Huntsman onto my bare foot, weirdly fuzzy and heavy but no bite thankfully. And why the heck do these Arachnids launch a jump straight at one when all I am trying to do is use the broom to guide them out of the open door to outside the house.

we have a very odd huntsman in our house at the moment.
she (?) hangs around in very intrusive places — eg, on the floor right in a doorway, on the bowl of the coffee grinder, on the breadboard, right next to the handle on doors, underneath the breakfast table, etc. she stays in each place for a couple of days, ignoring people coming and going, and then moves somewhere else. we’ve only had to chase her away once (had to have some coffee!) but we just keep an eye out for her and let everyone know where she is.

If it gets inside past the insect spray barriers it dies. We woke up to one crawling over us in bed once. It’s a completely natural human reaction to be repulsed by them.

When I was a toddler we had a huntsman living in our house which my mum named ‘Harry’, he was become a sort of pet and we became excited to see him. I think she did it so we wouldn’t be frightened and worked really well. Despite being a really fearful child I was never bothered by spiders in our home, if anything I was fascinated by them. They are very easy to catch using the glass and piece of paper trick. There’s no need to harm them, they mean us no harm.

As a lover of spiders and all insects I want everyone to know that `Wet and Forget’, a mould killer for outside, kills spiders. Personally I would like to see the end of all poisons used on our planet. I’d like everyone to get over their childish reactions and phobias. Articles like this help. I’m in Sydney and have noticed the spiders seem to have just disappeared. Anyone know what is going on?

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