Spiders mostly prefer to eat other arthropods that have bodies smaller than their own. However, there are also numerous spider species that can consume impressively large meals. For example, in Ireland recently a native lizard species was reported in the news as being captured and killed by a spider. Although this is an impressively large meal for one spider, most people do not understand why this particular story is newsworthy in Ireland; after all, only one single lizard died, so what is the big deal? Do the Irish secretly worship lizards in their spare time? As it happens, the lizard that was consumed belongs to Ireland’s only native lizard species. At the moment, these lizards are protected as endangered species under the country’s Wildlife Act. Not only that, but the spider culprit belongs to a species that has established an invasive presence on the island country, so this recent news story is doubly disappointing to wildlife enthusiasts in the country. The spider in question is known as a false widow spider, and this is the first recorded incident of one of these invasive spiders eating a native lizard in Ireland. To be more specific, this is the first time ever that scientists have documented a false widow spider as eating a vertebrate animal.
The native lizard specimen was discovered at a home in Killiney over a year ago. The lizard had become trapped within the webbing of a false widow spider before it was slowly eaten. The lizard was discovered right as the spider had been consuming it. The false widow spider arrived in Ireland over twenty years ago from the Canary Islands, and they have been killing off beneficial species in the country ever since.
The false widow spider is more venomous and can live longer as well as breed faster than any other type of spider in Ireland. Most spider species in Ireland live for no longer than two years, and produce no more than fifty eggs during their lifetime. However, the false widow spider can live for up to seven years and they can produce two hundred eggs every two weeks. Since the spider was introduced twenty years ago, it has since spread to seventeen different counties in Ireland.
Do you think that the false widow spider could wipe out all of Ireland’s native lizards?