I felt like Miss Muffet—she of the classic cheesy nursery rhyme—the other day. While picnicking in the woods with some of my favorite curds (albeit no whey), a very big spider appeared and made its way straight for the cheese. It was an unappetizing move, but a curious one too. Do spiders really like cheese, I wondered? After all, aren’t cheese mites related to spiders? This six-legged visitor stayed quite some time on my slice but I couldn’t tell if he/she was actually eating it. For those who might be wondering the exact same thing (I know there are some of you out there), here’s what I’ve found out about spider sustenance:
Spiders eat live prey only. (Maybe cheese is considered live? After all it “ages.”)
Spiders don’t chew their food. When they get a bug in their web, they bite it and inject venom. The venom paralyzes or kills the insect, then turns its insides into liquid. While the venom is working, the spider wraps the bug in silk. She may drink the liquid then, or tie the little silk bundle to her web so she can snack later. (Could the spider at my picnic have been trying to inject venom into the cheese?)
Spiders can go for long periods without food, the longest record being for 1 year. However, they do need moist conditions to prevent dehydration. (Just like some cheeses I know.)
The weight of insects eaten by spiders every year is greater than the total weight of the entire human population. (WOW. That’s a lot of bugs. I’m glad we’re not competing with spiders for cheese.)
Finally, I learned that Little Miss Muffet of the nursery rhyme really existed. She was the daughter of a Dr. Mouffet who believed spiders had healing powers when eaten. I shudder to think what was in her curds and whey.