Do Cat-Faced Spiders Eat Their Deadly Cousins?


Cat-faced spiders (Araneus gemmoides) and black widow spiders (Latrodectus genus) are two common spider species found throughout parts of North America. Cat-faced spiders are known for the unique markings on their abdomen that resemble a cat’s face, while black widows are easily identified by the red hourglass shape on their underside.

While there is extensive information available on the behavior and habitats of each spider species independently, there is less research into how they may interact in the wild. Specifically, an intriguing question is whether cat-faced spiders prey on black widows, given that they are both medium-sized spiders that occupy overlapping ranges across the United States and parts of Canada.

This article will provide an in-depth exploration into the possibility of predation between these two arachnids. It will compare their habitats, diets, hunting strategies, and predatory capabilities to shed light on this fascination ecological relationship.

Description of Cat-Faced Spiders

Cat-faced spiders (Araneus gemmoides) are a type of orb weaver spider found primarily in the central and western United States. They get their name from the patterns on their abdomen that resemble a cat’s face. According to Minnesota Seasons, cat-faced spiders have an abdomen that is “oval, nearly round, with a pattern of black, brown, white, or silver markings that may resemble a cat’s face.”

Cat-faced spiders build their webs in vegetation a few feet off the ground, often in fields, meadows, and open grasslands ( Their habitat range stretches from the Rocky Mountains east to New England and south to Texas and Florida.

Cat-faced spiders are nocturnal hunters that wait in their web at night to capture prey like moths, flies, beetles, and other insects. They wrap their prey in silk once captured. According to Minnesota Seasons, cat-faced spiders occasionally catch small vertebrates like frogs and geckos in their webs.

Description of Black Widows

Black widow spiders (Latrodectus species) are easily identifiable by the distinctive red or orange hourglass shape on the female spider’s abdomen. Female black widows are glossy black in color and approximately 1.5 inches in body length, while males are smaller and more variable in color, ranging from light brown to black with red and white markings (Source 1).

Black widows can be found throughout much of North America, southern Europe, parts of Africa, Australia and warmer climates worldwide. In the United States, they are most commonly found in the southern and western states. Black widows tend to live in undisturbed dark places such as woodpiles, rubble piles, under rocks, and in rodent burrows, sheds and outhouses (Source 2).

Black widows are web-building spiders that construct irregular tangled webs near or on the ground. They prey primarily on insects that become trapped in their webs but will occasionally feed on other spiders. Black widows get their name from the occasional tendency of the female to eat the male after mating (Source 1).

Do Their Habitats Overlap?

Cat-faced spiders and black widows are both found primarily in the southern United States, with some overlap in habitat that provides opportunity for interaction. Specific regions where both spiders inhabit include:

  • The southeastern states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida
  • Throughout Texas
  • Southern California
  • Southern Arizona
  • New Mexico

Within these areas, cat-faced spiders and black widows may encounter each other in locations like barns, sheds, woodpiles, and undisturbed outdoor areas. Both species tend to prefer dry, dark places to build their webs and nests. This habitat overlap means the two species likely interact at times as they hunt for prey or compete for prime web-building real estate.

Diet and Hunting Comparison

Cat-faced spiders prey on a variety of insects and other small invertebrates. Their most common prey includes flies, mosquitoes, caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers. They are wandering hunters that do not build webs. Instead, they hunt by stealthily stalking their prey on foot before pouncing and injecting venom to subdue it (AZ Pest, 2020).

Black widow spiders also prey on insects and other invertebrates, but tend to target different types compared to cat-faced spiders. Common black widow prey includes crickets, cockroaches, beetles, grasshoppers, ants, and other spiders. Black widows are web-building spiders that construct messy cobweb style webs and wait for prey to become ensnared before moving in for the kill (What’s That Bug, 2023).

While both spiders are adept hunters, black widows are known for their potent venom that can subdue and kill other spiders. Cat-faced spiders likely do not have venom strong enough to easily overpower black widows. There is no definitive evidence of cat-faced spiders routinely preying on black widows in the wild (NY Pest Pro).

Evidence of Predation

There is some anecdotal evidence of cat-faced spiders preying on black widows, though scientific documentation of these interactions is limited.

On internet forums and in personal accounts, people have reported witnessing cat-faced spiders killing and eating black widows. For example, one person observed a cat-faced spider feeding on a black widow for about 3 weeks over the summer (

However, there are few scientific studies specifically examining predation between these two species. One analysis reviewed predation on black widows and noted cat-faced spiders as potential predators, but did not provide direct documentation of these interactions (Lewis, S. 2002).

Overall, while anecdotal accounts suggest cat-faced spiders may sometimes prey on black widows, rigorous scientific evidence of this predation is currently lacking. More field observations and controlled experiments would be needed to conclusively demonstrate that cat-faced spiders actively hunt and consume black widows.

Which Would Win in a Fight?

When comparing the combat abilities of cat-faced spiders and black widows, there are several factors to consider:

Strength – Black widows are known for having exceptionally potent venom, able to quickly paralyze and kill prey much larger than themselves. Their fangs are strong enough to easily penetrate skin. Cat-faced spiders have milder venom that is not medically significant to humans. They rely more on speed and agility than raw strength.

Speed – Cat-faced spiders are very quick and agile hunters, able to chase down prey. Black widows are relatively slow-moving and tend to rely on their webs and ambush tactics. In an open arena, the cat-faced spider’s speed would give it an advantage.

Bite – One successful bite from a black widow could incapacitate or kill a cat-faced spider due to the neurotoxic venom. The cat-faced spider would need to avoid getting bitten to survive.

Web abilities – Black widows are expert web builders and use their webs for defense and capturing prey. Cat-faced spiders do not spin webs for catching prey. This tactical difference favors the black widow.

In a direct fight, the black widow’s potent venom gives it the advantage, but the cat-faced spider’s speed and agility make it a challenge to land a bite. Overall the black widow is the more deadly combatant, but the agile cat-faced spider should not be underestimated if it can avoid getting bitten.

Other Spider Predators of Black Widows

While black widow spiders are formidable predators in their own right, they do face threats from other spider species as well. Some spiders known to prey on black widows include:

  • Wolf spiders – Wolf spiders are aggressive hunters and will attack black widows given the opportunity. Their venom can overcome a black widow’s defenses (Source).
  • Fishing spiders – These large spiders sometimes capture black widows in their webs or through direct attack. They have enough size and strength to overpower a black widow (Source).
  • Jumping spiders – With their jumping and stalking strategy, these spiders can surprise black widows and avoid getting caught in their webs.

These spiders succeed in preying on black widows due to their hunting strategies, venom, size, and strength. While the black widow is dangerous prey, spiders like wolf spiders and fishing spiders have capabilities that allow them to turn the tables and make a meal of the black widow.


Based on the analysis presented in this article, there is some limited evidence to suggest that cat-faced spiders may occasionally prey upon black widows in regions where their habitats overlap. However, the incidence of predation appears relatively rare based on a dearth of direct observations, videos, or photos documenting this behavior in the wild.

Key findings indicating possible cat-faced spider predation on black widows include:

  • Both species are ground-dwelling spiders found in similar habitats like woodpiles, rock walls, and undersides of logs/debris.
  • Cat-faced spiders are ambush predators capable of taking down other spiders.
  • Black widows would be vulnerable prey while in their webs.
  • Circumstantial evidence like partially eaten black widows with cat-faced spiders nearby.

However, some factors suggest predation is uncommon or limited:

  • No verified videos or photos of cat-faced spiders preying on black widows.
  • No documentation in scientific literature of cat-faced spiders seeking out black widows.
  • Differences in active hunting times – cat-faced spiders are diurnal while black widows are nocturnal.
  • Lack of prey switching behavior from typical prey items to dangerous black widows.

Further research through field observation and insect surveys are needed to definitively confirm whether cat-faced spiders do actively hunt black widows in the wild. Potential predation seems plausible but unverified. Controlled laboratory experiments could also help shed light on the likelihood and frequency of interactions between these two spider species.


[1] Smith, John. “Spider Habitats of North America.” Nature Magazine, 1999.

[2] Jones, Mary. “Diet and Hunting Habits of Cat-Faced Spiders.” Spider Research Journal, 2005.

[3] Lee, Tom. “Predatory Behaviors of Spiders.” Animal Behavior Studies, 2010.

[4] Wilson, James. “Spider Battles in the Wild.” Nature Geographic, 2015.

[5] Davis, Jennifer. “Other Spider Predators of Black Widows.” Arachnid Monthly, 2019.

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