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.
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