The Two Most Lethal Spiders. (And one that may be worse!!).

So far, the most lethal we know.

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The menacing figure of the Sydney Funnel-Web SpiderDeadly fangs of the Funnel-WebSix-Eyed Sand Spider is well camoflagedLooks like a Recluse bite siteThe infamous 'Wanderer in defense/attack mode
The menacing figure of the Sydney Funnel-Web Spider
The menacing figure of the Sydney Funnel-Web Spider
Deadly fangs of the Funnel-Web
Deadly fangs of the Funnel-Web
Six-Eyed Sand Spider is well camoflaged
Six-Eyed Sand Spider is well camoflaged
Looks like a Recluse bite site
Looks like a Recluse bite site
The infamous 'Wanderer in defense/attack mode
The infamous 'Wanderer in defense/attack mode

How many more lethal creatures lie undiscovered?

Since I have been producing articles on hubpages, I have spent a long time in the world of the Arachnids, I have found them to be fascinating. This, from the heavyweights: tarantulas, funnel-webs and large scorpions, to the common house and garden spiders of the British neighbourhoods.

To be truthful, I thought my work was done as I had covered them fairly well, until I heard of an entry in the 2009 Guinness Book of Records describing the Brazilian Wandering Spider as having the most lethal toxic venom.

As far as the two most dangerous spiders are concerned, this is a bit like the old "Which is the more dangerous, the lion or the tiger?" As far as frail man is concerned, both are extremely deadly and possess a surfeit of power needed to dispatch a "hairless monkey" with one nip or swipe from a paw.

There is no doubt the Brazilian wanderer has gained a reputation for having a nasty temper, with the most deadly poison of the spiders, but it doesn't have the fang-power of the spider I consider to be possibly more dangerous and lethal under certain circumstances: the Sydney Funnel Web Spider, also with some of the most lethal venom of the whole animal world. Further, the Funnel Web has horrendous fangs like daggers which can easily puncture a light shoe, your finger or toe nails.

The Brazilian Wandering Spider has another characteristic minimising the danger of his bite. There is a very good chance of a "dry bite," (no venom injected) or a partially restrained bite, where just a little - up to a third - of the creature's venom is injected. Many snakes do this, which is why a snake-bite under relatively unthreatening conditions often results in a minimal envenination. Note: the operative clause is "some snakes;" and "some situations."

The above detail is why you often see deaths among young children with the bite of the wanderer: (and, indeed, most venomous creatures); it is easier to penetrate their tender skin; they are often partially dressed and they have a much smaller metabolism to withstand the toxic effect. Another factor is the lack of available anti-venin and available medical personnel in the tropical areas of the Americas.

In Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, perhaps the most populous area in the country, all this is instantly available and a good stock of antivenin which can quickly neutralize the Funnel-web's bite.

Before this, nearly 30 people died that we know about from the bite of the Sydney arachnid, and more were made ill and suffered long term effects. (Many spider bites may have been blamed on snakes if the attack occurred in heavy country).

Of the male and female Funnel-Web, the female is much the larger and generally polishes-off her mate after they have...mated. He is half her size and weight (but more athletic with longer legs), but his venom is 6 to 8 times stronger than hers (now disputed) and most fatalities have come from attacks by the faster and more belligerent male spider which doesn't hold back his venom. If he decides he doesn't like you (more often than not after you have annoyed him) he often grabs on to a part of you and bites time and time again with his razor-sharp fangs! The Funnel Web often wants to do you damage, no messing! (see pic. of his biting apparatus).

Many say, "Yes, OK, but the Sydney spider lives in his funnel - or tunnel- and he won't bother you from in there unless you really poke about and provoke him." This is not always true and that's probably the less pugnacious and dangerous female in there. The danger time with the aggressive male is when he is on walk-about (Ozzie speak) and looking for a mate, usually between April and June - the mating season.. He has other things on the mind than wasting time with you and he will make that painfully obvious.

The Funnel Web has the evocative scientific name of Atrax Robustus. His name is for the virulent toxin, Atratoxin, which is especially lethal for primates and man, of course. His venom may not be quite as lethal, drop-by-drop, as that of the wandering spider, but the Australian arachnid will be more likely to sustain an attack and inject far more toxin. (Why some vipers like the Gaboon and large Rattlers are so deadly; their huge fangs and copious amounts of venom).

The male funnel web spider is attracted to water during the summer mating season and often falls into swimming pools where he appears dead until picked up, where he promptly springs to life and gratefully bites his rescuer!

Before 1980 this spider was much more feared: an antivenin concocted in that year has prevented further death, after the spider's venom killed a small child in less than 15 minutes!

The wandering spider, also called the "Armed Spider," is found in many parts of Central and South America, from Costa Rica, all the way to Argentina. He is a large creature, from 4 to 5 inches leg span at maturity (against the thick-bodied and more powerful funnel web's 1 to 3 inches). He hunts at night and is concealed during the day in termite mounds or even banana plants. (which is why some have been shipped all over the world, biting surprised dock workers, and even more alarmed shopping housewives in supermarkets!... from time-to-time!).

One of the more interesting aspects of the American spider's bite is that it often causes Priapism in men. This causes a painful erection, lasting for hours, and often ending with impotence. ("Cumere, darlin,' let's have a good one for the road!"). Its venom is currently being studied for use in erectile dysfunction...I am unsuccessfully restraining myself from chuckling over this. (If the Chinese find out about it, they will denude the Americas of the creature: might give the rhinoceros horn and tiger's bones a rest!

Heck, there will then be 10 billion of them in a couple of years...all making rubbish for export in sweat shops!)

The wanderer will assume an erect defence/attack position with its striped abdomen exposed (time to retreat). It also sways from side to side like a cobra. (It also might bite without doing any of these things if surprised). The funnel web also rears in warning.

You really don’t want to get bitten by either of these arachnids; they can both move fast, especially the wanderer, so move away smartly and diffuse the situation.

From stage right...one that’s worse!!

Just to make your nightmares even more vivid, there is one spider, the "Six-Eyed Sand Spider," that may have a venom far more toxic than even our two protagonists today. This shy creature lives on and under the desert sands of North Africa. Known locally as the Sicarius Hahni, this arachnid possesses a Cryotoxin that will, indeed, make you cry. It is said to be even more deadly than that of the Golden Dart Frog (see my hub), previously thought to have the most deadly toxin on the planet.

There is no antivenin for this neurotoxin; any creature it has bitten has died within minutes. The two reports of it biting humans ended with one death and another having his arm amputated to prevent him dying. The effect is similar to that of the Brown Recluse, except far more so. This ambush predator is luckily timid and not aggressive; you would be unlucky - very - to be bitten, and would be also very lucky to survive.

There are a couple of thousand spiders we know about, and many more out there waiting to be discovered. ALL arachnids carry venom of one sort or another. FEW can bother large mammals like man. But all spiders should be treated with respect and left alone to get on with their lives. They generally repay the courtesy.

 

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Comments 24 comments

Glenn Raymond profile image

Glenn Raymond 6 years ago from Bailey, Colorado

This is an excellent hub topic. I think it is the first one like it that I have come across. My wife would freak out, but you have really researched this very well. Keep up the great work.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 6 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Very interesting and helpful hub. This caught my attention because all summer long I had a friend living in my home under the washer and dryer. It was a Wolf spider. No one believes me, but he would sit in front of the washer and when he saw me heading to the bathroom, he would chase me. I wore my shoes all summer long in the house. This little friend is very fast and very courageous! The first time I had an encounter with him he chased me all around the bathroom. If I can catch spiders, I take them outside - but, this one I could not catch, so I just was always alert to where he was. He is very territorial and stayed in the same general area. I heard that a Wolf spider bite is pretty nasty, but, not life threatening. Hope he finds another home next summer.


BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

This one gave me shivers. I have arachnophobia big time. Why? Spiders seem so creepy with so many legs and all. Great informative hub though, I enjoyed reading it once I got past the shivers.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks Glenn. Spiders have always interested me and it was so rewarding to be able to share some information about them. Thanks for your comment. Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Phyllis. There are literally hundreds of members of the Wolf Spider family. The worst part about them is they do tend to run around very fast. I haven't heard of one chasing anybody with that regularity. They can't hurt you anyway. If you had stayed still he wouldn't have hurt you, but are you sure it wasn't a Widow? The little male can be very territorial and they are venomous as you know...Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Most people, if they are honest, are disturbed by spiders to a greater or lesser degree, for the reasons you state. They are very stubborn and brave, too! They often dispute "their" territory with us, and too bad if we hold the mortgage! Try not to hurt them and remove them with a glass and paper...Thanks for comment...Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Phyllis. I see some wold spiders can bite but rarely do and the necrotic bites once attributed to them are now thought to be from other families. However, a bite from one might be painful with some local swelling but it would never be fatal...Bob


theherbivorehippi profile image

theherbivorehippi 6 years ago from Holly, MI

OMG...these are frightening. And..the picture of that bite on that guy's hand! wow! I am a "catch and release" person myself when spiders are in my house (unless the dogs or cat get to it first) however...if I saw a spider that looked like this...hmmmmm, I'm not sure if I could be so kind.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi. Thanks for comments THH. I think that pic was of a Brown Recluse attack, they are nasty little spiders and the worst in the USA because of the necrotic effect of their venom. A hand like that is unusual, thankfully. You won't see the "stars" of this article unless you live in Australia, North Africa or the Amazonian tropical regions...Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

...which I see you don't. You also have the Widow in the USA, but they rarely bother anyone. The Recluse can be dangerous because it is small, brown, and hard to see when it gets in the house. Sometimes its bite can't be felt until effects appear. Bob


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 6 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Hi Bob. I am sure it was a Wolf spider. It was too large for a Widow male and it was a pale yellowish/gold color. I think it chased me so many times because I was stepping in it's "territory", which I had to do to get to the bathroom and my bedroom. I looked up the description of the spider I had and the one I found on wikipedia so much like mine was a Wolf spider. Living in Northern Nevada we get a lot of species of spiders here. I also read that their bites are very painful.


libby101a profile image

libby101a 6 years ago from KY

Wonderfully written hub. Spiders are creepy, but interesting. Awesome read. voting up.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

An explicit and comprehensive hub but it cheered me up tremedously.


diogenes 6 years ago

Ha Ha! You're too much, HH. What are you doing messing around with arachnids at this time of night! Thanks for comment...cheered you up...I can see through you, you know!! Bob


Spider Hunter 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing such nice info. Please visit https://salticidae.webs.com I have some unidentified spiders. Any help is appreciated.


Spider Hunter 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing such nice info. Please visit http://salticidae.webs.com I have some unidentified spiders. Any help is appreciated.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Spider...will do Bob


DanaTeresa profile image

DanaTeresa 4 years ago from Ohio

I just happened upon this hub while reading another. Even though I am terrified of spiders I had to give it a read. That's because I am also a love of csience and nature and can never pass up the opportunity to learn something fascinating. GREAT HUB. I thouroughly enjoyed it. Its a good thing I live in the USA in Upstate NY. Not a ton of spiders up here. Something tells me my "naming technique" to cope with the phobia wont work so well with these guys! http://hubpages.com/literature/I-Hate-Spiders-exce...


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Dana: Thanks for visit to this venerable article.

I bet you have your share of spiders, but maybe not the stuff of nightmares!

Bob


Phoebe Pike 4 years ago

We have a spider here in Maine, "wolf spider". If you are bitten three times in a lifetime, it will induce a heart attack. As far as our researchers know, they have only developed that way here in Maine. So if you have heart problems to begin with, you are in for a terrible hospital visit if you get nipped. Fortunately wolf spiders are gentle creatures who rarely attack. They only bite if they feel threatened or if they have their eggs with them. Some people will keep them as pets as they can get rather large. I once had one in my apartment the size of my palm. I ended up catching it in a jar and bringing it to the woods. I don't kill them because they rid Maine of a greater danger. Blood suckers... we had some major issues with ticks and the flying menances who carried Lyme and Yellow Fever. The spiders will eat them and ever since their growth in population, there have been a lot less lyme reports.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi. Well: three times and your out, eh? Sounds like Florida's recidivists law!

There are many kinds of Wolf Spider all over the world.

...all spiders have the ability to bite and have venom, even the tiny "money spiders" but the small ones cannot penetrate your skin.

My advice with spiders is leave them alone and they will usually repay the courtesy, or become adept with the glass and papers and move them away from the house as you did.

Bob


jcopanos 4 years ago

Hey there! Loved reading your very informative/analytical article on these amazing characters. I live in Massachusetts, home of some wolf, widow and garden spiders (and yes, as reported by many in this state, an occasional brown recluse). I am perplexed by the number of spider bites (?recluse) that are reported in this area. People are obsessed with spider bites and physicians overdiagnose them, particularly when someone develops a severe soft tissue infection out of the blue, without a history of trauma. I have treated probably over 100 such cases in my 5 yrs of practice, and NONE of them looked like the work of a recluse spider. In a couple of instances, patients have found remnants of legs within the bite, but there is no evidence of ulceration or necrosis. As you mentioned, EVERY spider has some sort of venom, and people react to it differently based on several factors, most importantly their immunologic reaction which is independent of the toxicity of the venom. Additionally, many insects bite and can cause the same reaction in someone allergic to the venom. Unfortunately, spiders get all the credit, yet they are extremely beneficial to us because they catch and kill the real pests. I never kill spiders. If they r in my house, I catch them and place them outside (more for my wife's sake).

As for reports of Brown Recluses in this region, that is certainly possible, but likely rare. Fact is, it IS too cold for them up here. Those that do find their way here probably do so in someone's luggage, or maybe even furniture delivered from endemic areas For those who have definitely seen one here in the Northeast, then either you, a visitor or a delivery guy served as it's mode of transportation...... Or that crazy neighbor of yours who brags about how cute his pet scorpion

is.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi icopanos: Thanks for interesting comment and observations. I suppose you can get some form of necrosis and ulceration from many small infections...I wonder how many people are already incipiently carrying pathogens just looking for ideal conditions to start a colony! Of course, the trouble with recluse bites is they are often not detected at first...the spider bites in defense of course, but how many other blood sucking insects have adapted to man's defences and may be carrying even worse bacteria or viruses?

Bob


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

Information and pictures greatly interesting! Informative! And neither did I restrain myself from chuckling, as you. Have killed three Recluse spiders in my house within the last week...one a giant in the bathtub. But my paper towel wrapped shoe got him in one good smack! It is past time to put out some 'sticky traps'. I haven't seen a Wolf spider just recently as I have read they will kill the Brown Recluse spiders. Here, Wolfy, here Wolfy! :-)

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