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A Treatise On The General Principals Needed To Ensure A Garden Full Of Fat And Happy Spiders

2011.09.03
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1 Sausage (cooked cocktail): Very popular. Eaten readily.
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2 Rolled oats: Surprisingly scrumptious. Especially with a small topping of black fly, as seen here.
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3 Carrot peeling (supermarket variety): Rejected.
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4 Fish food (Tetra Min flakes): These were the most interesting to observe, but not well liked. The spiders would approach each flake individually. Then they'd grab hold of it, take a bite and on deciding that it was unpleasant, flick it off the web. They would repeat this process, taking a bite from each individual flake before chucking it out like garbage.
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5 Cat food (Felix in jelly): This was the most popular of all the food we tried. It was the only one that was not only eaten on the spot but cocooned for later.
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6 Fly: No, not part of the experiment (I couldn't do that to a fly) but living proof that they prefer catching their food. It was amazing to watch how the fly was cocooned. The spider arranged it on the web so that it was attached to just two threads; one at either side. Then it span the fly very quickly wrapping a new strand of thread right around it.
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7 Wasp: More home cooked food from the spiders. Perhaps this was revenge for the wasp that ate the spiders lunch the other day.
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As summer fades into autumn, the number of insects in the garden starts to dwindle. Those of you who, like me, have amassed a large collection pet garden spiders during the warmer months may be wondering just what they can do to sustain the little darlings now that their usual provisions are becoming harder to find.

Aware of this natural desire to keep our arachnids 'appy, the nutritional scientists here at Jarvo's blog have been working hard with experiments to produce this indispensable guide as to the best foodstuffs to successfully maintain a garden full of satisfied spids.

Results:

As well as those noted above in the pictures we also tried the following:

Cheese (Bavarian smoked) - this was eaten half heartedly and then left or thrown away. As well as being generally unappetising to the spiders, it was also the densest of the foodstuffs we tried and had a tendency to fall straight through the webs.

Pear (type unknown) - stayed on the web untouched.

Chicken (cooked in ginger and garlic) - This was surprisingly unpopular. Not sure if it's the chicken they don't like or the garlic and ginger. Also this didn't stick to the webs very well. I had expected better from what was the only warm offering on our menu.

Chocolate (from a Rocky bar) - This was easily the least favoured food. None of our Spiddy Pigs would go near it. It also melted in the heat of the sun making a mess on the webs that could not be tidied.


Lessons:

1. Meat is the most popular dish on the menu. Perhaps unsurprising when you never really see them eating anything else.

2. Sweet things and vegetables were a definite turn off for our gastronomically savvy spiders.

3. If they can, spiders prefer to catch their own food. I think they must enjoy the thrill of the wait.

4The larger, presumably better fed spiders, were less inclined to eat the food that was given to them. The smaller ones seem less embarrassed about accepting charity.

5. Spiders will move very quickly to almost anything that lands on their web. They will quickly check it out; if it meets their approval it will be eaten with great gusto. If not, it will be thrown from the web to keep it clean. Chocolate and pear were the only exceptions which were not touched at all.
14 Comments
beth0110 what a lovely scientific documentary :) great shots of each "food"
beth0110 · 2011-09-03: 21:57
danrav Jon, what a great study, write-up and photographic display/illustrations!!! I am truly impessed with the work that you put into this!!! You're one cool dude!!!!
danrav · 2011-09-03: 22:01
lookagain Even though the shots are creepy, this is a fascinating experiment, Jon! Excellent post!!!
lookagain · 2011-09-03: 22:13
jennyLit This is amazing! Even if spiders give me the heebie jeebies... Very interesting set!
jennyLit · 2011-09-03: 22:28
jet28 What a great experiment! I wonder if Aussie ones have the same likes and dislikes. I must try this when the spiders eventually arrive here this spring.
jet28 · 2011-09-03: 23:11
GKorts I really like that part about the chocolate spoiled web and thanks for the info I also thought that they only eat other insects
GKorts · 2011-09-04: 01:32
krasotulichka BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! brrrrr! Super macros!
krasotulichka · 2011-09-04: 04:11
Ryana Your pictures give me the chills, which in this case is positive, spiders just are not cute at all!
Your experiment is of a high creative level that is so typical for you and your work.
Ryana · 2011-09-04: 05:19
????? you fed your spiders?????? what a great experiment, I love that idea!! I also love the pics you caught, very impressive
????? · 2011-09-04: 10:39
revenant Why is it I'm not surprised? I suppose it's the imagery of Felix the Cat in jelly being spiders' favourite nosh.

If you cross-reference your fascinating research (worth a grant or two, surely?) with litmus tests, you'll find that garlic and ginger have high acid (or is it alkali?) values. Maybe spiders suffer from ulcers. Hardly surprising when you realise what they eat.
revenant · 2011-09-04: 13:06
mawey lovely little documentary of something that i'd never do, never could get as near to, never would want to try... i'm arachnophobic; yet still i enjoyed every little bit of your experiment! thanks for sharing this marvellous entry! :-)
mawey · 2011-09-05: 12:48
Nubster Well done. Never thought much about spider likes and dislikes before - fun experiment! Perhaps they prefer their meat (flies) fresh, like we do, even if it will be stored for later?
Nubster · 2011-09-05: 13:00
girafferacing Fascinating post - I would never have thought to try this!
girafferacing · 2011-09-07: 16:28
Redwood City, California We have a garden spider living in the corner of our garden window in our kitchen. We have been catching flies for him because it is hard for him to get food. Now that winter is approaching we were wondering how to keep him/her fat and happy. I might try the cat food. His/her name is Fred and we often get worried when he/she hasn't repaired the web overnight.
Redwood City, California · 2013-10-30: 11:35
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