How Deadly Is The Banana Spider To Humans?

For those who can't stand to even be in the same room as an eight legged creep, arachnophobia is a very real affliction. But the fear of spiders often has more to do with their spindly legs and bulbous bodies rather than their ability to cause harm. Although they might bite if provoked, most spiders are relatively harmless to humans. But most is not all.

Of the arachnids who do pose a real risk to humans few have garnered as much media attention as the Brazilian wandering spider, sometimes referred to as the banana spider. First, a point of clarification: here banana spider does not refer to the large yellow bodied beauties that are native to the American southeast and are known for their incredibly strong silk. They can grow quite large and will bite if provoked, but according to Healthline their bites aren't particularly venomous and usually less painful than a bee sting.

Deadly stowaways

Brazilian wandering spiders, known scientifically as phoneutria, which is Greek for "murderess," are medium sized with fuzzy brown bodies and are native to the interior of South America. They get their name from their propensity to go on the hunt for prey, as opposed to waiting in a web or hole. They were bestowed with their other nickname after several instances where they were found hiding out in banana shipments that had made their way to grocery stores across the world. One notable case saw a family flee their London home after finding a full grown specimen with an egg sack in some bananas they had delivered from their local grocery store.

Despite the sensational headlines that accompany stories of spiders hitching a direct flight from the Amazon to the Whole Foods produce aisle, according to Nadia Drake at National Geographic it's actually a pretty rare phenomena. In her article Drake references a study that found only 135 total instances of spiders in banana shipments over an eight year period, and of those spiders only seven were actually Brazilian wandering spiders.

The risk to humans

So are Brazilian wandering spiders really so dangerous that you should immediately vacate your home if you find one? The answer to that question is yes, but also, no. An article on Live Science details the effects of the arachnid's venom, which is highly toxic and attacks the nervous system of its victim. In humans bite can cause symptoms such as nausea, blurred vision, burning pain all over the body, and can lead to death.

However, while the toxin can be deadly, the good news is deaths from wandering spider bites are very rare. There is an effective anti-venom and a Brazilian study found that in most cases when patients came into the hospital with wandering spider bites their symptoms were mild. This is likely due to the spider not always delivering a full payload of venom when it bites. Still, best to double check those bananas and avoid finding out for yourself.