Have Arachnophobia? These Are the Only Spiders That Are Likely to Hurt You
Here are 8 venomous spiders — one for each creepy little leg — you don’t want to mess with
Spiders exist almost everywhere — even inside the cleanest houses and in nearly every region of the world. But even the common house spider strikes panic and fear in many people. (Warning: spider images ahead!)
But are these eight-legged creatures really a threat?
“Spiders aren’t particularly dangerous,” explains Rod Crawford, an arachnologist with Seattle’s Burke Museum, a natural history museum associated with the University of Washington. “More people have gotten injured through their fear and misconceptions of spiders than from the spiders themselves.”
Worldwide, there are approximately 50,000 species of spiders, including several thousand varieties in the U.S. and Canada. Generally, spiders are helpful to humans. These creepers keep in check the population of insects that pose a greater threat to humans and animals, such as mosquitoes, Crawford says.
But there are a few dangerous varieties. Here’s how to
1. Brown recluse spiderPhoto: Steve Collender/Shutterstock
These spiders hunt at night and tend to set up shop in the south central Midwest and southern regions of the United States. The brown recluse has some unique characteristics, including six eyes instead of the more common eight. While many resources refer to the violin-shaped marking on the top of the spider’s head area, don’t rely just on this characteristic because it can fade away over time. The spider is usually a golden brown. About 10 percent of brown recluse spider bites cause moderate or higher levels of skin tissue damage and scarring, though the majority of people bitten by one of these spiders heal well without medical intervention, according to the University of California, Davis. Bites from these spiders are rarely if ever fatal.
2. Black widow spiderPhoto: Peter Waters/Shutterstock
These spiders are typically black and shiny with a red hourglass marking on its underside. The female is more common in the United States than the male. Black widows can be found in barns, sheds, stone walls, porch furniture and other outdoor structures.Black widows build webs between objects, and bites usually occur when people come into contact with these webs, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). A black widow bite can be painful, though there have been cases, according to OSHA, in which the bite went unnoticed. Often, however, pain spreads from the bite area to the abdomen and then to the person’s back. Symptoms include cramping or rigidity in the abdominal muscles, nausea, labored breathing, increased blood pressure and fever.
3. Brown widow spiderPhoto: Decha Thapanya/Shutterstock
This venomous spider is more common in the southern half of the United States. They are usually tan or brown, though they also can be lighter, almost cream colored, according to Venombyte.com. The spiders have an hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen that can appear orange or sometimes yellow. The spiders usually have red or white spots running down the middle of their backs. Their venom can cause widespread muscle spasms, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
4. Red widow spiderPhoto: Courtesy of the University of Missouri
The red widow is found in Florida on Palmetto shrubs. As with all widows, only the females are considered dangerous. They’re about a half-inch long and get their name from the reddish-orange coloring of their head, carapace and legs. According to a University of Missouri study, these elusive arachnids are hard to come across and, while considered venomous, there’s no record of one biting a human. A red widow spider’s venom is a neurotoxin that can cause muscle spasms and tissue damage.
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5. Funnel-web spiderPhoto: James van den Broek/Shutterstock
The large, bulky spiders are among the most feared in southern and eastern Australia. Britannica.com reports several human deaths in the Sydney area since the 1920s. An antidote for the spider’s main toxin is effective if the bite is treated quickly. The spider’s web is unique. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, it’s usually spun horizontally, with a funnel leading down to a shelter (a rock crevice or dense vegetation).
6. Redback spiderPhoto: Peter Waters/Shutterstock
The redback spider is native to Australia and can be found in New Zealand, Belgium and Japan thanks to grape exports, according to Britannica.com. A look at its black back will reveal a red stripe or hourglass-shaped marking (similar to its relative the black widow). According to Sydney’s Australian Museum, these spiders rarely leave their webs. People who are bitten usually touch a body part to the web. Their venom has neurotoxins that cause pain, rapid heartbeat and swollen lymph nodes. The last reported human death was back in 1956, although about 250 people are treated each year in Australia after being bitten.
7. Brazilian wandering spiderPhoto: Dr. Morely Read/Shutterstock
This highly aggressive spider is the most venomous spider
in the world, according to Guinness
World Records. Like the name suggests, it’s found mostly in Brazil. The
venom affects the nervous system and can affect the heart. These spiders are
usually dark and can be almost 7 inches long. They are known to enter homes and
hide in clothing or shoes. When threatened, they become very aggressive and can
bite over and over again. Deaths most commonly occur when a young child is
bitten. An antivenom is available.
8. Wolf spiderPhoto: Katarina Christenson/Shutterstock
There are numerous species of this spider, some of them very large. The wolf is named for its wolf-like habit of chasing and attacking prey, according to the University of Michigan. They hunt at night. Most species are dark brown with long, hairy bodies and thick legs. They tend to build nests in the ground. Their bite can cause nausea, dizziness and an elevated heart rate, particularly in people allergic to spiders.
If you think you’ve been bitten by a spider, don’t let it
scamper away, Crawford says. That spider — or its carcass — is the only thing
that will allow an arachnologist to identify it and get the proper medical
“Even if it’s smashed to smithereens, save it. Don’t throw it away,”
Crawford says. But don't risk another bite in your attempt to catch the arachnid.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says to wash the bite area with soap and water, then apply a cold cloth or ice pack to reduce swelling. Elevate the area if possible, and don't attempt to remove the venom, the CDC says. Immediately seek medical attention.
One last note: Spider bites can become infected with tetanus spores, the CDC says, so be sure to keep your tetanus shots up-to-date and get one every 10 years.
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