Spider vs Wasp: A Battle for Survival in the Insect World

folder_openArachnida, Araneae
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Some battles are easy to predict, while others are truly difficult. In the insect world, spider vs. wasp is a rivalry that has often invited debates among punters. So let’s answer the question once and for all, shall we?

Spiders and wasps are both powerful and fearsome constituents of the insect realm.

Both have their own weapons and tactics to fight and win in a battle. Both can be very aggressive when push comes to shove.

So, spiders vs. wasps – who will win in a fight? This question isn’t just a fun thing to imagine.

It’s a matter of life and death for some species. In this article, we try to make a comparison between these two and figure out who will win in a fight.

Spider vs Wasp

How Big Are They?

In the insect world, body size matters.

Ultimately, nine times out of ten, the winner of any fight is always the more powerful one, those who are bigger and have deadlier weapons.

So let’s first get an understanding of which one is bigger before we get any further.

How Big Are Spiders?

If you think that spiders are small creatures, think again. Your common garden spider might be small, but spiders can grow to be pretty huge in places like Australia.

The world record goes to the Goliath bird-eating spider (the name itself tells you how big this guy is). This beast of a spider can grow up to 4.7 inches long.

Now you might think, that’s actually not that big. But we haven’t shared one killer detail here – the legs of this spider can reach up to 11 inches (nearly a foot).

Imagine finding that thing on the wall of your house! What wasp could survive this nightmare?

Well, all spiders aren’t this huge. The smallest ones are pretty cute – the patu digua, the smallest spider in the world, is just 0.015 inches in length – that’s almost the size of your nail.

So when you want to know which one would win in a fight, the first question you should answer is – which spider are we talking about here?

Some other huge spiders are: Giant Huntsman spider (12 inches), Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater Spider (10 inches), Brazilian Giant Tawny Red Tarantula (10 inches), and Face-size Tarantula (8 inches)

How Big Are Wasps?

Now that we have established that spiders are truly the stuff of nightmares let’s get to the other insect terrorizing your dreams – wasps.

Did you know that the largest wasp is the Tarantula Hawk, which can be about 2.7 inches in length? Imagine a huge flying creature like this with a massive stinger attacking you from the sky!

Other giants wasps include the Dalara Garuda (2.5 inches), Giant Scoliid Wasp (2.5 inches), Mammoth Wasp (2.4 inches), and Asian Giant Hornet (2 inches)

Some wasps are quite small, such as the Mymaridae, which is just about 1/100th of an inch and is the smallest flying insect in the world.

All in all, wasps aren’t as big as spiders can be, so surely spiders have some advantage in hand-to-hand (or is it leg-to-leg?) combat.

Fortunately for the wasp, nature has evened things out by giving it wings. And that, combined with their nimbleness, can be enough to alter the equation in their favor.

Which is More Venomous?

We do have a clear answer to this question. Researchers in Australia (where else?) spent 13 years studying bites from various creatures and their impact on humans.

Apparently, wasps and bees are the single biggest reason for humans to reach the ER room, causing about a third of all such cases.

Spiders, snakes, and even jellyfish were in the fray, but none came even close to how dangerous these wasps could be.

So that’s a clear advantage for wasps, right?

Not so fast. While wasps might have caused a third of the cases, spiders weren’t too far behind, with 30 percent of all hospitalizations coming from their venomous bites.

Snakes came in a distant third with just 15 percent. So clearly, if anyone is giving a tough fight to the wasps, it is the spiders.

Some more shocking figures – nearly fifty percent of all cases happened inside homes (the horror!), and nearly two-thirds were in areas that had human populations near them, so these bites don’t always happen in woods and forests.

These creatures live right in our midst, and they are just waiting for the next occasion to bite you. Beware.

Whose Bite/Sting is More Painful?

I know what you are thinking – who would go around getting bitten by these creatures to find out which bite is more painful?

Well, don’t look at us, but some scientists decided that it would be a worthwhile exercise to figure this out.

And thus was born the Schmidt sting pain index. As the name suggests, spiders are not on the pain list because they don’t have stingers.

Their venom is not all that painful, though it can be life-threatening. But we would still love for you to know about some of the wasps on this list:

WaspPain Index
Tarantula Hawk4
Warrior Wasp4
Western Yellow Jacket2
Paper Wasps1.5

Another group of scientists evaluated the painful sting of wasps, ants, bees, and other insects and came up with their own classification.

Their study confirmed that social wasps have the most painful bites in the world. The average pain index of these wasps was about 2.18, enough to make a grown man weep.

What Do They Eat?

Now let’s come to the reason why these insects would want to attack each other. And what other possible reason could there be for two insects to fight? Food, after all, is the biggest motivator in the world.

Do Spiders Eat Wasps?

Yes. Some spiders can and do eat wasps. Wolf spiders, Lynx spiders, garden spiders, crab spiders, Argiope bruennichi (european wasp spider), and so on lead a charmed life.

These guys weave tangled webs and wait for insects to get trapped in their webs. And every once in a while, a flying wasp will find itself caught in them.

So, what is a spider to do if a delectable snack presents itself on the web? Well, eat it, of course! The spider quickly injects its venom into the poor victim and then gets ready to feast on the spoils of victory.

Do Wasps Eat Spiders?

Yes, wasps, despite their smaller size, can eat spiders. In fact, there is one particular species of wasp that has made a spider its primary prey – the aptly named spider wasp.

Although these wasps aren’t actually fighting against spiders for food. They are doing it for the survival of their bloodline. How? Read on.

Spider wasps use spiders as live food for their larvae when they hatch. These wasps fight spiders more than twice their size, stinging them repeatedly in the abdomen until the spider keels over paralyzed (but unfortunately not dead).

The wasp then drags the zombie spider back to its nest and places it along with her egg, covering the nest up with mud or a small pebble.

When the eggs hatch, there is a nice little meal already available for them laid out by their mama. 

They carefully run through the poor spider’s body, leaving the vital organs for the last so that the poor thing remains alive till the very end.

That’s possibly the worst fate any creature could face in the world. For those with a stomach for such things, here’s a video of the fight and its aftermath:

The spider wasp is not the only one in on the act. There are other wasps that can also eat spiders, such as Ceropales Maculate. 

Some species of spider wasp that are common in North America include Leaden spider wasp, Red Spider Wasp, Organ pipe mud dauber, and Entypus unifasciatus.

Who Will Win in a Fight?

So clearly, some spiders can eat wasps, and some wasps can eat spiders. That leads us straight back to our original question – who will win in a fight?

The answer, as with everything else in life, is not that simple. It depends on which spider is fighting which wasp. Let’s imagine some scenarios here:

Tarantula Hawk vs. garden spider

The tarantula hawk, as the name makes it abundantly clear, is a spider killer. Most garden variety spiders would not stand a chance against this fearless spider hunter, and if the video above was any indication, even tarantula doesn’t stand a chance.

Tarantula Hawk vs. Goliath bird-eating spider

Well, this one is a no-brainer. The Goliath is a true goliath, and the Tarantula Hawk’s David will not stand a chance against this beast. It’s huge – and might easily overpower the wasp.

Asian Giant Hornet vs. Goliath bird eater.

Well, this might be a more evenly matched contest. In this case, the result could go anywhere – it depends on the grit, gumption, and technique of the two fighters.

What can we say? Let the betting begin!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the spider ever win against the wasp?

Despite the fearlessness with which the spider wasp fights with spiders, there are instances when spiders can win in a direct, one-to-one contest.
If the spider is a larger one, such as a goliath birdeater, the sheer size will make it difficult for the wasp to go for its tender area – the abdomen. In such a fight, the spider will eventually come out victorious, either crushing the wasp or letting it fly away.

What does a wasp do to spiders?

Wasps have powerful stingers that can inflict serious pain on anyone they bite. Moreover, they have venom in their sting.
Venom helps to paralyze the insect or bug they are stinging, in this case, a spider. Typically, the wasp will try multiple times to sting at the softer parts of the spider so that the sting can become effective.
Slowly but surely, the spider starts to become paralyzed, and then the wasp simply lugs the spider back to her nest as live food for her larvae.

Do wasps have predators?

Yes, wasps do have their own predators, just like all other creatures on earth. Spiders can eat wasps, as we already said earlier.
But you will be surprised to know that centipedes, beetles, moths, praying mantises, and dragonflies can all kill and eat wasps.
Some might use guile, like the spider’s web, while others, like praying mantises, might use brute force.

What do wasps do to cockroaches?

They do the same thing that they do to spiders – they sting roaches. The female wasp will usually sting the poor roach twice, once in the abdomen, and then the killer shot to the brain.

The venom from the sting will make the roach paralyzed, and as it loses its senses, the wasp drags it back to her lair and plants an egg on it.

When the larvae come out, the roach becomes their first meal.

Wrap Up

It’s hard to make a call on the spider vs. wasp debates. They are good points on both sides, but more often than not, it is the size of the species that decides the winner.

Wasps prey on spiders, and spiders on wasps. So both are mortal enemies. And in this eternal fight between two equals, the only referee is mother nature.

Thank you for reading!

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Spiders

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44 Comments. Leave new

  • Love it! So wicked 😉

    Reply
  • Brian,
    My dog got bit by a bee or spider this week and is having a severe reaction. (his skin is peeling)
    We found a bee nest near his run & today we found a bee which looks like the Great Digger Wasp taking a spider in it. My question is could my dog have been bit by the spider or stung by the bee. If stung by the bee would it have had the same stunning effect as on the spider. Prior to me taking dog to the vet he was staggering some. His skin is peeling between the eyes & near his rectum. We are treating him with antibiotics internally and externally. Should I control the bee population or the spiders.
    Thanks for any advice.
    Katie
    ps. I did take pictures

    Reply
  • Brian,
    My dog got bit by a bee or spider this week and is having a severe reaction. (his skin is peeling)
    We found a bee nest near his run & today we found a bee which looks like the Great Digger Wasp taking a spider in it. My question is could my dog have been bit by the spider or stung by the bee. If stung by the bee would it have had the same stunning effect as on the spider. Prior to me taking dog to the vet he was staggering some. His skin is peeling between the eyes & near his rectum. We are treating him with antibiotics internally and externally. Should I control the bee population or the spiders.
    Thanks for any advice.
    Katie
    ps. I did take pictures

    Reply
  • I have looked at the photo closely and have noted substantial castaneous markings on this wasp. Although there are a very few records of Anoplius preying upon orb-weavers this wasp taking a garden spider is more indicative of Poecilopompilus algidus, which specializes of orb-weavers. This wasp is often very dark and could be confused with one of the larger Anoplius (i.e. A. atrox or A. bengtssoni).

    Reply
  • Not sure this is Anoplius, either. This is most likely Episyron biguttatus; the white metasomal spots can be difficult to see, especially when its wings are folded down. Because the behavior needed to flush an orb-weaver from its web is actually quite specialized it would be unlikely that Anoplius would use orb-weavers as prey. Episyron, Poecilopompilus, and some Agenioideus actually have to enter the web of an orb-weaver and “flush” it (as you probably know, orb-weavers have a tendency to drop to the ground when disturbed) then follow it to the ground to paralyze it. Anoplius exhibits a generalized type of searching behavior and would more likely prey upon spiders that dwell close to the ground.

    Reply
  • This is another Poecilopompilus algidus, check out the images here: http://bugguide.net/node/view/134416/bgimage, http://bugguide.net/node/view/216445/bgimage

    Reply
  • Found something similar in Minnesota, here’s the link: http://www.projectnoah.org/spottings/163306012 I’ve also come across something similar near Lake Emma (MN) however, the wasps look slightly different and were preying on the fishing spiders found there. Your update helped me understand the difference. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Nick Fensler
    May 29, 2014 6:35 pm

    This is Tachypompilus ferrugineus.

    Reply
  • Robyn Shillinger
    March 15, 2015 12:43 am

    I have also had this little drama play out in my backyard. I have several photos, as well as some video of it. If you’d like, I can send to y’all. Or anyone else who’d be interested.

    Reply
  • Im in Oklahoma and saw this EXACT same two insects today. When I was trying to get a close examination, the wasp stopped dragging the spider, charged at me without flying, fluttered it’s wings as if to say “im gonna get you next!” With that, I waited for it to start dragging the spider then wacked it with my water bottle. Id much rather have wolf spiders that will run from me than wasps that will charge me!

    Reply
  • I have spider wasp nests several feet off the ground. One is up a wall and the second is attached to a brick tank stand. The nest on the tank stand was recently constructed and I watched a spider wasp go in and out of it only a couple of days ago, so I beg to differ in that they nest only underground.

    Reply
    • According to the Brisbane Insect site: “Most members in this family are large wasps. All of them are solitary insect. The female mates and then prepares nests (usually on ground in soil) and food for her young.” It should be pointed out that other wasps from different families prey upon spiders. Mud Daubers, including the Organ Pipe Mud Dauber pictured on the Study of Northern Virginia Ecology website provision nests with spiders. So in conclusion, most Spider Wasps from the family Pompiliidae nest underground, and not all wasps that prey upon spiders are members of the Spider Wasp Family. We cannot say for certain without images if your wasps are an exception to the norm of most Spider Wasps, or if your wasps are in a different family and still prey upon spiders.

      Reply
  • I am in Essex, MD. I have seen 2 of these this week, but didn’t know what they were. They sure are diligent, tracked one dragging it’s prey (wolf spider) for over 40 feet then lost it. Thank you for this info. Couldn’t get a picture.

    Reply
  • Hi, I know this is an old post… but I’d like to know if your spider recovered. I’ve got a huntsman in a jar right now on my kitchen bench (I’m in Queensland, Australia). It was stung by a hunting wasp and we accidently scared the wasp.

    Reply
  • Yesterday I watched a spider wasp carry a huntsman at least 30 meters from the back of my house, up walls, through shrubs, down the side of the house and across the street. And after all that trouble, a kookaburra spotted her and gobbled the pair of them up. It was amazing. I filmed it on the mobile only to find later that it somehow didn’t work. Damn.

    Reply
    • What a wonderful sighting of the complexities of the food chain.

      Reply
    • Sherrie Atkinson
      January 2, 2017 7:00 am

      Rather depressing
      After all her hard work!
      Took a pic of one today with a huge Huntsman.
      She was not impressed at me getting too close. Let go a few times and came close to look at me. I respected her personal space!
      I have watched the fight with a huge wolf spider. Went for at least 10 mins. Hornet won …love the name even if not correct.
      We had at least 2 Spider Wasps in the garden on the farm at all times. Don’t see them so much now. Sad.

      Reply
    • Sherrie Atkinson
      January 2, 2017 7:00 am

      Rather depressing
      After all her hard work!
      Took a pic of one today with a huge Huntsman.
      She was not impressed at me getting too close. Let go a few times and came close to look at me. I respected her personal space!
      I have watched the fight with a huge wolf spider. Went for at least 10 mins. Hornet won …love the name even if not correct.
      We had at least 2 Spider Wasps in the garden on the farm at all times. Don’t see them so much now. Sad.

      Reply
  • hi, few years on in this post, but I have a paralysed huntsman saved from a wasp during her brief absence – and I was wondering what the chances of the spider’s survival were. The Huntsman has been in a bug catcher for about a week, I’ve be attempting to give water daily. Today he seemed to move slightly. He’s outside at the mo enjoying the night air.

    Reply
  • So nice to know I’m not the only person who has tried to ‘save’ the odd spider. Ours didn’t make it though, good luck with yours! Normally we don’t begrudge the wasps their dinner, but we accidentally chased one away and it left the poor thing behind.

    Reply
    • I have a wolf spider I saved from a spider wasp yesterday. It is still alive and paralyzed. I am in Virginia. I have the spider in a jar with a moistened paper towel and air holes in the lid. I have read various accounts with both survival and mortality of the spider. Since the sting of the wasp is pretty substantial, I am doubtful that the spider will survive, but I will remain hopeful.

      Reply
  • Dwain Moody
    June 20, 2018 2:58 pm

    Sitting on my back porch, I see these often hunting around. Have witnessed them dragging spiders across the porch before and taking them into a dark crack to never been seen again.

    The other day I noticed one was flying around then landing and walking back and forth. I went over to watch what is was doing. It found a very small house spider web in a corner of the back porch.
    It slowly walked up to the web, as if checking for the web itself, placed it’s front legs on the web and began to vibrate the web with it’s legs. The spider came running out to catch it’s prey and the Spider Wasp attacked, paralized the spider then flew off with it.
    One of the most amazing things I have seen in real life. Was almost like watching something off BBC’s Nature.

    Reply
  • Dwain Moody
    June 20, 2018 2:58 pm

    Sitting on my back porch, I see these often hunting around. Have witnessed them dragging spiders across the porch before and taking them into a dark crack to never been seen again.

    The other day I noticed one was flying around then landing and walking back and forth. I went over to watch what is was doing. It found a very small house spider web in a corner of the back porch.
    It slowly walked up to the web, as if checking for the web itself, placed it’s front legs on the web and began to vibrate the web with it’s legs. The spider came running out to catch it’s prey and the Spider Wasp attacked, paralized the spider then flew off with it.
    One of the most amazing things I have seen in real life. Was almost like watching something off BBC’s Nature.

    Reply
  • I’ve just spent AGES trying to find an I’d for one of these in my garden! Amazing creature.

    Warwick UK.

    Reply
  • I’ve just spent AGES trying to find an I’d for one of these in my garden! Amazing creature.

    Warwick UK.

    Reply
  • I was surprised to see a wasp carrying a large spider in my front yard. The wasp was methodical , it layed the spider down and dI’d a reconnaissance flight to see how far it was from its lair, and came back pick up its prey and drag it to the intended site.

    Reply
  • Hi Stephanie,

    I’m working with Frank (earlier reply to you) on this study paper and would like to acknowledge you for this rare host spider/wasp event that you photographed. You can contact me off the site at rickcwest@shaw.ca.

    Great site and good job, Daniel.

    Reply
  • Hi Stephanie,

    I’m working with Frank (earlier reply to you) on this study paper and would like to acknowledge you for this rare host spider/wasp event that you photographed. You can contact me off the site at rickcwest@shaw.ca.

    Great site and good job, Daniel.

    Reply
  • Frank E. Kurczewski
    March 1, 2019 5:39 pm

    You indicated that you were trying to locate Stephanie’s contact information. Does she have any other photos of this 08/22/2018, Oklahoma City, OK wasp and spider encounter? Myself and a couple of prominent arachnologists would like to examine the spider more closely in other photos as this is the most eastern record for the genus Syspira in North America. There are some locality records for this genus from southern Texas. Thank you very much for locating her and keep up the excellent work.

    Reply
    • Hi Frank,
      While unable to locate Stephanie’s contact information, we did locate the higher resolution file of the image and we will email it to you.

      Reply
  • Hi there, I had a just had something similar just land on my leg clutching and small dead wood louse spider.
    Maybe it was to big for it to fly for to long.
    It was a devilish looking wasp about 10mm with a deep purple tinge to the back and wings. Pretty cool as it just landed on my leg while in the garden drinking a beer after work. It’s a good job they get as big as eagles. Lol

    Reply
  • Hi there, I had a just had something similar just land on my leg clutching and small dead wood louse spider.
    Maybe it was to big for it to fly for to long.
    It was a devilish looking wasp about 10mm with a deep purple tinge to the back and wings. Pretty cool as it just landed on my leg while in the garden drinking a beer after work. It’s a good job they get as big as eagles. Lol

    Reply
  • i beg to differ re they wont attack humans
    indeed that are thinking about how to get the paralysed spider back to its nest so they can lay eggs in it but they will attack you if you come too close and they are relentless.
    another time i was trying to save a huntsman spider from a stalking wasp that was chasingg it round and round a flower pot but it attacked me and i fended it off with a tennis racquet. they dont die very easily either.

    Reply
  • i beg to differ re they wont attack humans
    indeed that are thinking about how to get the paralysed spider back to its nest so they can lay eggs in it but they will attack you if you come too close and they are relentless.
    another time i was trying to save a huntsman spider from a stalking wasp that was chasingg it round and round a flower pot but it attacked me and i fended it off with a tennis racquet. they dont die very easily either.

    Reply
  • Denise Burger
    March 1, 2020 12:36 pm

    I was stung over this last weekend by a Wasp looking like the one on your picture.It was very large and it stung me 3times on the arm before I could get it off. So not so sure that the poor cat did not get stung. It left a very large red patch and today 3 days later it is still red sore and bruised.Is there a different wasp that looks the same as the spider wasp?

    Reply
  • Old post but here goes. I accidently scared off a spider wasp and she left it paralyzed on the front porch. After two days the wolf spider began moving again. I caught a cricket and fed it to the spider. For 24 hours now the cricket has been in the clutches of the spider, but it hasnt consumed it. I believe it lacks certain motor skills after being stung. Hopefully it will recover. I gave it a good fighting chance. Ill take 1 spider over 50 bugs anyday.

    Reply

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