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Scavenging by Spiders (Araneae) and Its Relationship to Pest Management of the Brown Recluse Spider

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Experiments reported in Sandidge (2003; Nature 426: 30) indicated that the brown recluse spider, Loxosceles reclusa Gertsch & Mulaik, preferred to scavenge dead prey over live prey and that the spiders were not detrimentally affected when fed insecticide-killed crickets. Extrapolations made in subsequent media coverage disseminating the results of this research made counterintuitive statements that pesticide treatment in houses would increase brown recluse populations in homes. This information was presented as if the scavenging behavior was specialized in the brown recluse; however, it was more likely that this behavior has not been well studied in other species. To provide a comparison, the current laboratory study examined the likelihood of non-Loxosceles spiders to scavenge dead prey. Of 100 non-Loxosceles spiders that were tested (from 11 families, 24 genera, and at least 29 species from a variety of spider hunting guilds), 99 scavenged dead crickets when offered in petri dishes. Some of the spiders were webspinners in which real-world scavenging of dead prey is virtually impossible, yet they scavenge when given the opportunity. Therefore, scavenging is a flexible opportunistic predatory behavior that is spread across a variety of taxa and is not a unique behavior in brown recluses. These findings are discussed in relation to pest management practices.

Keywords: Loxosceles reclusa; pest control; pesticide; scavenging

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/EC10428

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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