Predation occurs in a context defined by both prey and non-prey species. At present it is largely unknown how species diversity in general, and species that are not included in a predator's diet in particular, modify predator–prey interactions.Therefore we studied how both the density and diversity of non-prey species modified predation rates in experimental microcosms. We found that even a low density of a single non-prey species depressed the asymptote of a predator's functional response. Increases in the density and diversity of non-prey species further reduced predation rates to very low levels. Controls showed that this diversity effect was not due to the identity of any of the non-prey species. Our results establish that both the density and diversity of species outside a predator's diet can significantly weaken the strength of predator–prey interactions. These results have major implications for ecological theory on species interactions in simple vs. complex communities. We discuss our findings in terms of the relationship between diversity and stability.