Brazilian Wandering Spider Profile
There are more than 50,000 species of spider, and the vast majority are less dangerous than a honeybee. Almost none are aggressive, and of those with medically significant venom, only a small percentage are capable of causing death. So, on the whole, arachnophobes are just being a bit silly.
But there’s one spider that vindicates all of these fears, and few animals are as globally renowned to be a serious threat to human lives as the Brazilian Wandering Spider.
Brazilian Wandering Spiders are actually 9 species of spider in the same genus ‘Phoneutria’, one of which is found in Central America, with the rest in South America.
Brazilian Wandering Spider Facts Overview
|Location:||South and Central America|
|Size:||13 – 18cm (7 inches) leg span|
|Colour:||Usuall brown or black with vivid colouration under the front legs|
|Diet:||Insects, lizards, bats, frogs|
|Predators:||Coartis and other invertebrate-eating mammals|
|No. of Species:||9|
|Conservation Status:||Not Listed (IUCN)|
These spiders are called wandering spiders because of instead of spinning a web to wait for food, or occupying a lair, they spend their night wandering in the leaf litter of the jungle floor for prey.
The sensitive hairs on its body help detect vibrations of passing prey, and it will feed on insects, lizards, frogs and any animals as large as itself.
During the day they will hide under logs, rocks, or inside termite mounds and banana plants. They will also sometimes wander into urban areas and homes, where they can come into contact with humans.
Brazilian wandering spiders are aggressive, dangerous and frightening. For once, this is an animal you should be wary of.
The females are larger, around 50% heavier than males, and produce more venom, and this might be a clue as to why their Greek name translates to “Mudress”. These spiders will often stand and fight and have an intimidating threat display.
The potency of their venom is one of the reasons they’re so dangerous, and their ability to hide away in fruit and shoes explains why most bites are on extremities.
Interesting Brazilian Wandering Spider Facts
1. Armed Spiders
In Brazilian, these are sometimes known as armed spiders, on account of their elongated front legs.
They can convey quite a bit of information with these legs, and as wandering spiders, use them to get about the forest, looking for food.
2. Banana Spiders
They’re also sometimes called ‘banana spiders’ on account of their status as a stowaway on popular fruit imported from the tropics.
This is becoming less common as stricter regulations ensure there’s less contamination of fruits, but there’s always a chance your next bunch of bananas will have a family of these spiders living inside it.
3. They have the largest venom glands of any spider
Females produce more venom than males, but both sexes have enormous venom glands. These glands are even more impressive when you consider the size of the spider is significantly less than the largest around.
The venom glands of the Brazilian Wandering Spider are over a centimetre long, and this is all housed inside the bright red chelicerae (mouth parts) which they are quick to display whenever they get upset. 1
4. They’re aggressive
These spiders can grow quite large and have long, brightly-coloured legs. Unlike most spiders, they’re known to stand their ground when threatened and are far quicker to bite than many other species.
They’ll still try to scurry away where possible, and they’re not out to get anybody.
But where most other species will flee, the wandering spiders’ aggression does make it more likely to be involved in incidents.
Most bites are on fingers and toes, a sign that they’re being stepped on or grabbed inadvertently. When the spider feels cornered, it’ll rear up on its back legs and waves its colourful arms around as a warning.
Then it’ll sway side to side, beckoning you to have a go. Anything foolhardy enough to call this bluff gets a wealth of envenomation effects. 2 3
5. They give some men erections
There are ways to accomplish this with fewer side effects, but a bit from a Brazilian wandering spider does come with a certain Viagral quality.
This isn’t as fun as it might sound. Prolonged erections in this manner are likely to harm and destroy muscles and blood vessels in the penis and could cause irreparable damage.
Besides this, the assault on the central nervous system that comes with envenomation by this spider doesn’t sound worth it. 4
6. And some people die
This assault brings with it a whole host of unpleasant symptoms. Seizures, foaming at the mouth, inability to speak, collapse, and a host of other miserable experiences.
Paralysis is possible, as is cardiac shock. Blood vessels can burst in the brain, or anywhere else, and in many cases, this can be enough to kill a person.
This spider has one of the most potent venoms of all, and there are multiple legitimate records of death as a result of bites.
7. But they’re rarely fatal
While the Brazilian wandering spider is potentially one of the most dangerous spiders in the world, there is some evidence to suggest it gives a dry bite, defensively.
This means that despite exceptionally toxic venom, the amount actually injected is less than some of the other contenders, and this is what makes it typically less lethal than the Australian funnel webs.
These spiders are classified as Dangerous Wild Animals and would therefore require a special permit to keep. Bites from wandering spiders are common in South America, but antivenom is often readily available, and they rarely result in death.
In most cases, lethal bites are cases of a very young or very old victim, and few people of healthy age are killed. 5
8. They do invade the UK sometimes
These unquestionably scary spiders show up in supermarkets in the UK on occasion, having hitched a ride on banana shipments.
On more than one occasion they’ve made their way into shoppers’ homes, but it doesn’t appear that there are any cases of them biting people as a result.
These spiders aren’t suited for temperate climates and don’t survive Winter, so there’s no risk of them multiplying.
Brazilian Wandering Spider Fact-File Summary
|Species Names:||Phoneutria bahiensis
Phoneutria fera Perty
Fact Sources & References
- PeerJ. (2017), “Dimensions of venom gland of largest venom glands in all spiders”, Bio Numbers.
- Dave Clarke (2010), “Venomous spider found in Waitrose shopping ‘beautiful but aggressive’”, The Guardian.
- “Phoneutria Perty (Arachnida: Araneae: Ctenidae)”, UF-IFAS University of Florida
- Kátia R.M. Leite (2012), “Phoneutria nigriventer spider toxin Tx2-6 causes priapism and death: A histopathological investigation in mice”, Science Direct.
- “Brazilian wandering spiders: Bites & other facts”, Live Science.