Biologists have calculated that the global population of spiders consumes 400 million to 800 million tonnes of primarily insect prey every year.
Researchers set out to put a value on the ecological importance of the arachnids.
They say their appetite for prey means they consume approximately the same amount as the weight of meat and fish eaten every year by humans.
The findings are published in the journal the Science of Nature.
Dr Martin Nyffeler, the University of Basel scientist who led this study, was inspired by a 1958 book called The World of Spiders, in which a British arachnologist author William Bristowe speculated that the weight of insects killed each year by the British spider population exceeded the combined weight of the British human population.
Since he first considered that, the Swiss arachnologist spent hundreds of hours of recording spider behaviour in the field, and gathering spider ecology studies published around the world.
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SOURCE: BBC News, Victoria Gill