Not so sweet after all: are candy-striped spiders a threat to ecosystems across North America?

by Frédérique Mazerolle, McGill University
April 19, 2023

For years, pollinator declines have been a pressing issue for ecosystem health and food security in the face of climate change and human impacts on the environment. Even in their sleep, pollinating insects cannot catch a break – for fear they’ll be taken down by a small, but mighty predator: the candy-striped spider. Research published in Ecology took a closer look into this spider’s behaviour and found that the result of their stealth attacks could have substantial impacts on ecosystems.

Most likely accidentally introduced to both the East and West Coasts a little over a century ago, the candy-striped spider is a very common spider in North America. The spider’s striking colour varieties have attracted much research into their genetics, but before now very little was known about their behaviour.

“This common spider previously flew under the radar of researchers in North America and almost nothing was known about its diet and behavior”, explains Catherine Scott, a Postdoctoral Fellow in McGill’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences and co-author of the study. “We documented their diet and predation behaviour in the field and learned that they use a variety of tactics to take down prey much larger than themselves, including sleeping bees and wasps.”

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