If you are thinking of keeping a huntsman spider as a pet, you might want to know: what does the huntsman spider eat? Well, here is the shocking answer to that question.
When Justine Latton and her husband decided to spend a relaxing weekend at a ski lodge, the last thing on their mind was that they would encounter a giant, possum-eating spider.
But that’s the exact frightening sight they witnessed in their hotel room – a pygmy possum’s body hanging from the mouth of a giant huntsman spider.
So what are Huntsman spiders? What do they eat? Do they eat animals like possums, and can they be harmful to dogs or cats in the house? Can they try to eat humans as well?
While there are several species of spiders, giant huntsman spiders can grow to be as big as 2.5 inches long, with a leg span of up to 13 inches long, about the size of a dinner plate! They are about the largest spiders in the world. You may also know them by their nicknames, giant crab spiders and wood spiders.
Let’s take a look at what these fearsome spiders like to eat.
What Do Huntsman Spiders Eat?
Huntsman spiders love to chase their prey. They are one of the fastest spiders (in comparison with body size) and use their superior speed to their advantage in a hunt.
They use their strong, pincer-like mouthparts known as chelicerae to bite and inject venom into their prey. While this can be a terrifying thought, huntsman spiders are actually very good for pest control. They eat many types of pests, such as cockroaches and even other spiders. They also eat worms, other arthropods, and larger animals like frogs. We cover this in detail below.
Insects are the bread and butter of huntsman spiders. These giant spiders like to munch on basically anything they can get their legs on. Some of their favorite foods are:
Cockroaches: Well, you and I may be disgusted by roaches, but huntsman spiders consider them a delicacy. Roaches are full of important nutrients, so they are a favorite food for the huntsmans. Roaches are slower and duller than huntsman spiders, so if you have a major cockroach infestation, the huntsman spider might be a great friend to you.
Ants: Ants are packed with protein, but these little creatures are too small to be a whole meal. In most cases, huntsman spiders will only go after ants if they want a bit of a snack between meals.
Flies & Moths: Huntsman spiders are nocturnal hunters, so moths are one of the easiest prey available for them. While flies are a tough catch, if nothing else is available, huntsman spiders will go after them with gusto.
Crickets & Others: Crickets are easily available and are easy to catch as well. In fact, huntsman spiders will go after anything else that they see nearby, as long as it is easy to catch.
Worms are perhaps the easiest food for spiders. Wax worms and smaller worms aren’t fast, and neither do they have any reflexes of which to speak.
Huntsman spiders even use hunting techniques such as creating burrows in the ground to attract these creatures and then kill them.
The only thing that stops giant huntsman spiders from eating more worms is that these hapless creatures are often underground, making it harder to find them.
Huntsman spiders are pretty huge as compared to normal ones. So sometimes, the biggest huntsman spiders will kill and eat other smaller spiders as well.
After all, they are bigger, faster, meaner, and smarter – so why not use that advantage to weed out the weaklings of their species? However, this is not a popular form of food for them. They only go after other spiders if there is no other option.
They hunt other spiders just like they do with other insects – they wait for them and then ambush them when they are not looking. If the prey runs off, they will use their superior speed to chase them down and get the job done.
Lizards and Frogs
We started the blog with the frightening instance of a huntsman devouring a pygmy possum. While that’s an unusual event, these dangerous spiders can definitely go after animals bigger than themselves, such as frogs and lizards.
They use their superior hunting skill by ambushing these animals and injecting venom into their bodies. That’s how they are able to fight off and kill such large creatures.
Huntsman venom acts in two ways on the prey’s body – it immobilizes it and also starts to liquefy the body, making it easier to eat the prey.
What Environment Do They Live In?
Huntsman spiders are native to Australia, Africa, and South America. You can find these spiders under rocks, under the barks of trees, in small crevices in walls, and under foliage.
Huntsmans are social spiders. You can see many of them sitting under the stumps of old trees, and especially inside the rotting bark of trees.
In places where they cross the paths of humans, these spiders love getting into houses, especially inside cars.
In fact, there have been several such scares for drivers in Australia where a huntsman spider is running across their car’s dashboard as they are driving.
How Do Huntsman Spiders Reproduce?
Huntsman spiders have long and cumbersome mating rituals. There is a lot of PDA involved as the male and female feel each other out before getting into the act.
The male of the species uses his pedipalps (antennae-like things in the front) to drum against trees and show off his prowess. He then inserts them into the female to pass on his seed.
Huntsman spiders lay as many as 200 eggs in one go. They protect these eggs by spinning a silk web around them, making something like a sac.
Typically, huntsman moms are dedicated ones. They guard their egg sac fiercely, and some even carry it around with them under their belly.
Others hide the eggs under tree bark or a rock and then stand guard until the eggs hatch, which might take up to 3 weeks. When they know the babies are about to come out, they will often tear open the silk sac they made for protection.
Mama huntsmans sit around with the babies for a few weeks till they molt and take the grey color that adults have. A huntsman spider can live for about two years in the wild.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can huntsman spiders eat birds?
Yes, the giant huntsman spiders are quite capable of eating small birds, the same size as a frog or a lizard, if they can move fast enough to inject their venom into them. Another spider that can eat birds is the goliath “Birdeater” spider, which is a type of tarantula.
What do huntsman spiders eat in the house?
Huntsman spiders eat insects such as cockroaches, flies, moths, and worms that are running around the house, minding their own business. These spiders are so good at insect control that some pest removal professionals suggest you keep them around if you have them.
How often does a huntsman spider eat?
Huntsman spiders can eat two to three meals a week. Each meal would consist of an entire insect such as a cockroach or sometimes even a lizard. These spiders love to launch surprise attacks on unsuspecting prey and finish them off quickly with their venom.
Are huntsman spiders friendly?
Huntsman spiders are typically not aggressive if humans are around, but if you cross paths with a female protecting her eggs, then it might attack you. Typically, these creatures don’t pose too much of a problem for humans.
We hope you learned more about the amazing things these large spiders can eat. While you won’t find them eating possums every day, be aware that huntsman spiders can kill and eat bigger things than worms or roaches.
They are mostly harmless to humans, but if you find a female huntsman protecting her eggs, you might be in for a tough time.
Thank you for reading the article!
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below.
Letter 1 – Golden Huntsman Spider
Wolf Spider or Desert Recluse
I need your help. It is a big spider about 3’ in diameter. Comes out every night to hunt to find prey. Is it dangerous?
Thanks for your help!
Your letter came at a perfect time. Another person just described this spider but had no photo, so I will forward it. This is a Golden Huntsman Spider, Olios fasciculatus. It lives in shady woodlands, thickets and homes in New Mexico and Utah, west to California. It builds no web but wanders slowly in search of prey at night. It is not dangerous.
Letter 2 – Golden Huntsman Spider
I live in the desert, and I found a spider by the name Golden Huntsmen. I was told it was not deadly, but it was really ugly. Could you please give me some info about it.
The Golden Huntsman Spider is Olios fasciculatus, one of the Giant Crab Spiders of the Family Sparassidae. They are, as you know, large spiders named for their crablike legs. They are mostly tropical but found in Florida and the Southwest as well. The Golden Huntsman Spider does not build a web, but wanders in slow search of prey. The female carries her egg sac in her jaws until the spiderlings emerge. It is found in shady woodlands and thickets from New Mexico and Utah west to California.
Letter 3 – Golden Huntsman Spider
Found this beautiful Huntsman at my parents house in southern Arizona. Thought you might love taking a look at it. It stayed on the table for about 4 days before moving on to better hunting. Enjoy.
Your image of a Golden Hunstman Spider, Olios fasciculatus, is exquisite.
Letter 4 – Golden Huntsman Spider
A Golden Huntsman, I presume? It was haunting the Ladies Room of our campground in Arches National Park, UT. Anyway, I think I got great contrast with the white painted wall & thought you may be able to use it. Let me know if was not correct in my ID.
You are correct. This is a Golden Huntsman Spider. We understand that Huntsman Spiders often haunt dark damp places, but why were you haunting the woman’s restroom, and with a camera no less?
Letter 5 – Palo Verde Root Borer and Golden Huntsman Spider
Palo Verde Borer Beetle & Golden Huntsman Spider
Great bugsite! The beetle submission on 7/2/2004 [Derobrachus geminatus: Due for a new name.] caught my attention. While outside in my yard on a hot July 8th, 2005 night at 11:22 p.m., in Paradise Valley, Arizona, I encountered a magnificent bug, easily 4 or 5 inches in length! I believe this too is an example of the Palo Verde Borer Beetle, currently known as Derobrachus geminatus. I don’t think my photograph is better than the lovely one you have posted, but it does offer a different viewing angle. These beetles lumbered around my property late at night, for about a week. I suspect this was prime mating time. Since the entomology course I took in college covered only insects, I found myself at a loss for identifying the eight-legged creature in the second attached photograph. I found this spider on May 26th, 2005 at 2:20 p.m. on a warm, sunny afternoon. It was motionless, on the ceiling of my porch. When I initially checked your site I couldn’t find a comparable spider. However, it looks like someone submitted a picture of the same spider on 7/14/05! Now I know it was the Golden Huntsman Spider, Olios fasciculatus. Just thought I’d share my picture with you.
Thank you so much for your submission. We especially love the Golden Huntsman Spider image.
Letter 6 – Huntsman Spider from Indonesia
Subject: Spider in Flores, Indonesia
Location: Labuanbajo, Flores, Indonesia
February 4, 2015 6:24 am
Found this spider in my house. Very fast and about 7 centimeter diameter (including legs). Do you know what it is?
This is a Huntsman Spider or Giant Crab Spider, Heteropoda venatoria, and it is considered harmless to humans. This species is also called a Banana Spider because they were often imported with bunches of banana and they have become established in warm coastal cities throughout the world because of global shipments of bananas. Huntsman Spiders do not build a web, but they hunt their prey, often Cockroaches, at night, so they can be considered beneficial.
Wow super quick. Thanks a ton!
Letter 7 – Huntsman Spider painted at factory in China
Subject: Painted carnage!
Geographic location of the bug: Irrelevant
Time: 07:42 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi, Bugman! I work at a retail store in South Dakota, but much of our merchandise is made in China. I think this poor creature must have been painted into this canister at the factory in China. Can you identify, despite his ‘blue mood’? Hard to say with legs folded under, but I’d put the length of each limb at 3″+. For scale, the floor tiles are 12″x12″.
How you want your letter signed: Josh M
We agree with your assessment that this Spider must have been painted at the factory. We believe this is a male Giant Huntsman Spider, Heteropoda venatoria, a species that has been introduced to many parts of the world because of banana shipments. This would have made a good April Fool’s posting were it not for real.
Letter 1 – Golden Huntsman Spider
Subject: Desert Spider
Location: Borrego Springs, Calif.
November 1, 2015 3:15 pm
I took down a window screen to clean it and found this spider. Oct. 2015. There was only this one. No web, egg cases or anything else seen nearby. It was not aggressive and did not try very hard to get away. I turned it loose in the garden shed. Is it a juvenile tarantula or what? Thanks.
Signature: Don de los Encinos
Letter 2 – Jumping Spider
Subject: Strange Bug
Location: Burlingame, CA, USA
March 25, 2017 10:18 am
I live in Burlingame, CA (near San Francisco) and I was trying to identify this bug on your web site but I haven’t been able to find it. At first I thought it was a spider. However, it has only six legs. The front two appendages don’t seem to be legs, but seemed to be antennae or maybe some sort of stinger. This bug was very aware of me, and as I got close to it, it would point its front antennae at me menacingly, which is why I thought they might be a stinger. Any clue as to what this might be? Thanks!
This is in fact a Spider and what you have mistaken for antennae are the first pair of legs on this Jumping Spider in the family Salticidae. Jumping Spiders do not build webs to snare prey. Rather they pounce on prey, often from a considerable distance, and they are such adept hunters because of their excellent eyesight. We will attempt a species identification for you.
Letter 3 – Huntsman Spider from the Philippines
Subject: What is it?
Geographic location of the bug: Cavite, Philippines
Time: 10:34 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Is this spider dangerous?
How you want your letter signed: Perry
This is a male Huntsman Spider, Heteropoda venatoria, a species that has expanded its range greatly due to the cultivation and shipment of bananas, hence the common name Banana Spider. Your individual is missing two of its legs. This species of Huntsman Spider is considered harmless to humans. The are nocturnal hunters that are tolerated indoors in many tropical countries because they feed on Cockroaches.
Letter 4 – Huntsman Spider from Yemen
Subject: Is that spider with 6 legs ?
Geographic location of the bug: Yemen
Time: 11:07 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I read that all spiders has 8 legs
This one has 6 legs and it was the biggest one i have seen .
it was very fast when moving .
How you want your letter signed: Basim farhan
You are correct that Spiders have eight legs, but often accidents occur and Spiders lose one or more legs. This is a Huntsman Spider or Giant Crab Spider in the family Sparassidae, and we believe it might be a male Heteropoda venatoria, a species that has spread to many parts of the world because of the importation of bananas. Huntsman Spiders seem more prone to losing legs than many other families of Spiders, or perhaps they are just better adapted to survival after losing legs. We have examples of six-legged Huntsman Spiders in our archives, including this individual from Florida and this individual from the Philippines.
Letter 5 – Six Legged Wolf Spider
Subject: Large 6 legged spider?
Geographic location of the bug: Mesquite, Texas
Time: 01:44 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Can you identify this critter? Large – size of my palm including the legs.
How you want your letter signed: Curious
We believe your Wolf Spider is in the genus Hogna, and it is missing two legs. It is not unlike this individual posted to BugGuide.
Thank you Daniel. Strange that it would lose the same leg on each side of its body. But I can see possible nubs where that might have happened. But the ridge formation on the rear section doesn’t look like the smooth Wolf Spider. Has a definite raised pattern.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Sun Spider
Strange insect found in back yard
Location: 39°31′38″N 119°49′19″W
July 12, 2011 11:54 am
My daughter found this strange insect in my parents back yard this morning.
It has 6 legs attached to the thorax, and long thin antenna and what appear to be large mandibles. At first glance we thought it may be some over-sized wolf spider but upon closer inspection that is clearly not the case.
The temperature out side was 42* and we are in a high desert valley at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. We are currently in our summer months.
Signature: Justin K
This is an arachnid, not an insect, and it is a Solifugid, commonly called a Sun Spider or Wind Scorpion. Despite having venomous relatives, the Solifugids do not have any venom or poison. They are fierce predators, and they might bite a person if they were carelessly handled, but they are not considered dangerous. We are translating your coordinates to read the Reno area of Nevada.