Believe it or not, tarantulas have many predators, and even a predator that specializes in eating only tarantulas.
Among the mammal predators of tarantulas we can find skunks, coatis, raccoons, foxes, mountain lions, jaguars, lynxes, ocelots, jaguarondi, ring-tailed cats, possums, sables, weasels, and armadillos, just to name a few.
Snake hunting a tarantula inside its shelter
There are countless winged predators. All carnivore and omnivore birds see tarantulas as a delicacy. Among the reptiles, most snakes and all lizards, except the green iguana, eat tarantulas.
Even other arthropods are also predators, so this makes the number of enemies almost countless, from crabs to other tarantulas, also mantis, beetles, amblypygids, uropygids, solifuges, etc.
There are also animals that prey on tarantulas, but as parasites. They do this by depositing a larva either internal or externally. The only predator specializing in tarantulas is classified within these parasites. I am referring to the Pepsis genus wasp, of which many species can be found in Mexico, such as Pepsis cerberus, chryosothymus, formosa, heros, limbata, mexicana, and thisbe. These are very beautiful with orange-red wings and a body that goes from metallic green to deep blue. They are quite large, some measuring up to 10 cm. Their hunting method is extremely specialized. First, they start by digging a narrow hole, large enough to fit a tarantula inside. Once finished, they hide the entrance with pebbles and debris. Now, they go hunting for their prey: the tarantula.
Here, I show you a short video on a Pepsis wasp preparing its cave to deposit an inoculated prey. As soon as I can film a wasp hunting, I will surely prepare the video to show it here. I also include some photos of possible enemies.
There can be many variations, but in general, the behavior of adult males searching for females makes them the more common prey, but if the wasp finds the entrance to the tarantula’s nest, she will somehow find the way to lure her out, and once she is outside, the wasp will go around the tarantula, that will strangely remain motionless, usually in a defensive position, and the wasp will attack and inject venom in the pleura, which is the softest part of the tarantula. This venom will not kill it, but will leave it in a lethargic state. What for? To have fresh meat for its baby when it is born! Once the tarantula has been numbed, the wasp will drag it all the way to the hole it had prepared, with extraordinary sense of location, never getting lost, and amazing strength, since the tarantula weighs several times more than the wasp. When it reaches the entrance, it will uncover the entrance to the hole, stuff the tarantula inside, and immediately deposit an egg that will soon become a larva that will feed on fresh tarantula. The larva will become a pupa, to later mature into another beautiful wasp.
The irony of this situation is that, in its adult stage, the wasp feeds on pollen, but its babies are carnivores.
I have observed this process many times, and it does not cease to amaze me, even though I have to watch how a tarantula is put to death in front of my eyes. In one occasion, I followed a wasp dragging its loot, a male Brachypelma vagans in the jungles of Guatemala, but it got tangled in some metal rods left by humans. After much struggling, the wasp chose to leave the spider. I kept this specimen in a catatonic state for three months before it began to slowly regain mobility without showing any signs of impairment.