Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 389–399 | Cite as

Kleptoparasites: a twofold cost of group living for the colonial spider, Metepeira incrassata (Araneae, Araneidae)

  • Andrea T. McCrate
  • George W. Uetz
Original Paper


Several species of kleptoparasitic and araneophagic spiders (Araneae: Family Theridiidae, Subfamily Argyrodinae) are found in colonial webs of the orb-weaving spider Metepeira incrassata (Araneae, Araneidae) from Mexico, where they steal food and/or prey upon their spider hosts. Census data from natural M. incrassata colonies reveal that the incidence of these species increases with colony size. This pattern may reflect the presence of several other orb-weaving spiders, each with their own kleptoparasitic species, invading larger M. incrassata colonies. As the number of these associated spiders increases, so does the density and number of Argyrodinae species in M. incrassata colonies, suggesting that associated spiders might reduce their own kleptoparasite load by building their webs within M. incrassata colonies. This represents a twofold cost to M. incrassata, as a field enclosure experiment revealed that a primarily kleptoparasitic species (Argyrodes elevatus) may reduce prey available to their hosts, but a kleptoparasitic/araneophagic species (Neospintharus concisus) inflicts high mortality upon M. incrassata. However, the cost of kleptoparasitism and predation by these species may be offset in part for M. incrassata individuals in large colonies by certain defensive mechanisms inherent in groups, i.e., “attack-abatement” and “selfish herd” effects. We conclude that increased occurrence of kleptoparasitic and/or predatory Argyrodinae spiders is a consequence of colonial web building and is an important potential cost of group living for colonial web-building spiders.


Colonial web building Kleptoparasitism Argyrodes Metepeira Social spiders 



The research reported here was supported by funds from National Science Foundation grants BSR-8615060 and BSR-9109970 to G.W.U. and a National Geographic Society grant #4428-90 to G.W.U. We thank the Mexican Government, Direccion General, Conservacion y Ecologia de los Recursos Naturales, Direccion de Flora y Fauna Silvestres, for permission to conduct this work in Mexico. We are grateful to Ana Valiente de Carmona and family, Blanca Alvarez, and Lolita Alvarez-Garcia for allowing us to conduct research on their properties. We thank Scott Larcher and Dawn Southard of the Smithsonian Institution for identifying Argyrodes specimens. We are also appreciative of assistance given by Beth Jakob, David Kroeger, Alison Mostrom, Veronica Casebolt, and Rebecca Forkner during data collection in the field and to Yael Lubin for comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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