Out of all the creepy-crawlies in the world, spiders are among the most feared. In fact, half of all women and 10 percent of all men show signs of arachnophobia, according to some data. In many ways, this is unfortunate, as spiders play an important ecological role, whether through feeding on insect pests or serving as prey for other creatures like birds and fish.
Yet although they can cause adult humans to flee the room screaming, in their own world spiders aren’t always the scariest bugs around. Wasps, praying mantises (like the one pictured here), centipedes and other spiders all pose threats to our eight-legged friends. Here’s a look at a few battles involving spiders and insects or other creepy-crawlies in which the spiders don’t necessarily have the upper hand.
Things certainly don’t seem to be going very well for this wasp, which is caught in the clutches of a spider that’s quite a bit larger than it. At this magnification, the spider looks particularly menacing, with spiky hairs visible on its long legs. The spider will likely inject the wasp with venom through its fangs before eating it, unless the wasp can execute a quick last-minute escape, that is.
Here, a centipede and a spider tangle on a web, and the image is rather nightmarish. With its brown vertical stripes and long legs, the centipede looks like a house centipede, while the spider is a banded argiope. Unfortunately for the spider, this is one type of centipede that feeds on arachnids, so the web-spinner might have caught more than it bargained for on this occasion.
Two deadly predators seemingly hold hands and kiss in this up-close photograph. The reality, or course, is not quite so romantic. Spiders and dragonflies prey on each other, and some dragonflies even snatch spiders from their webs.
When your adversary is called a spider wasp and you’re a spider, things probably aren’t going to end well for you. As their name implies, spider wasps prey on arachnids, even those that are bigger than them. In fact, if their victim is to become a host for their egg, a larger specimen is preferable, as it will need to last for the whole development process of the wasp larva.
The lush storybook quality of this photograph creates a stark contrast to the violence it captures. On a green, mossy woodland surface, a large tarantula spider is battling for its life with a tarantula hawk wasp. If the wasp is successful, it will paralyze the spider with its stinger, the sting from which is said to be the second most painful of any insect in the world. It won’t eat the spider, though; it has a much worse fate in mind.
The wasp and spider pictured here are pretty evenly matched in terms of size. Unfortunately for the spider, it lacks the wasp’s paralyzing stinger. We don’t know the outcome of this match-up, but when spider wasps overcome their prey, they drag them back to their burrows and lay an egg on them. The wasp larva then hatches and feeds on their often still living paralyzed host. And you thought spiders were scary.
It’s an all-out, no-holds-barred battle between this wasp and spider. In fact, it’s hard to make out where one critter starts and the other ends. According to photographer Harald Hoyer, the wasp and spider stung and bit each other, respectively, but in the end it was the wasp that escaped alive. Still, although the spider died, at least it didn’t end up becoming food for wasp babies like the previous entry could have.
In this photo, a crab spider and a bee face off on a purple flower. As bees are so reliant on nectar, some crab spiders set up camp on flowers, waiting to ambush the flying insects. Usually this ends with the spider eating the bee, but thanks to their stingers, bees are not completely helpless prey.
If there’s one insect that comes close to having spiders’ predatory skills, it’s the praying mantis. Mantises eat a wide range of insect prey, as well as spiders, and this one seems to have its eye set on a potential arachnid meal right now. If we were going to bet on this fight, we’d say there’s a good chance that the green googly-eyed one would win.
In this photograph, a wasp has flown straight into a cucumber spider’s web. Various wasp species prey on spiders, either for food or for the purpose of making them a host for their eggs, but this wasp will never get the chance to do either. It probably didn’t even see the spider thanks to the eight-legged one’s cleverly camouflaged green body. Mark this one up as a spidey win.
This plucky little spider with a yellow and brown abdomen is taking on a much bigger bee. The spider seems to have its fangs firmly embedded in the bee’s head, so the fight is probably just about over for these two – and the spider won’t be going hungry.
This photograph captures a tense moment as two predators face off on opposite sides of a leaf. Since the black-winged damselfly, or ebony jewelwing, is a species that includes spiders in its diet, this particular encounter could go either way. Still, given that they’re almost evenly matched in terms of size, we think the damselfly might be better off just flying away.
An ant and a spider come together in this photograph, but it’s not what you might expect. The ant can be seen gripping the spider with its mandibles, and according to photographer Andrea Paggiaro, it didn’t just attack the hapless spider, it killed it.
This time a spider takes on a like opponent – another spider. However, it’s not a fight to determine which one of them becomes a meal; it looks like a power struggle over a meal. Both spiders look roughly the same size, so it’s anyone’s guess as to which one emerged triumphant. We also wonder if the loser ended up being eaten after all.