Colombia’s Captivating Crawlies:

A Look at Venomous Spiders

While known for its dazzling biodiversity, Colombia also boasts a diverse array of venomous spiders, each captivating in its own way and each with its own unique characteristics and habitats. Among the most notable are:

  1. Banana Spiders (Phoneutria): Also known as wandering spiders or armed spiders, these large and aggressive spiders are known for their potent neurotoxic venom.
  2. Black Widow Spiders (Latrodectus): Recognizable by their glossy black bodies and red hourglass markings, black widow spiders possess venom that can cause severe pain and neurological symptoms in humans.
  3. Brown Recluse Spiders (Loxosceles): These shy and elusive spiders are known for their venomous bite, which can lead to necrosis and tissue damage in severe cases.
  4. Colombian Giant Red-legged Tarantula (Megaphobema robustum): While tarantulas are generally not considered highly venomous to humans, the Colombian Giant Red-legged Tarantula can deliver a painful bite with its large fangs.
  5. Brazilian Wandering Spider (Phoneutria): Similar to banana spiders, Brazilian wandering spiders are known for their aggressive behavior and potent venom, which can cause paralysis in severe cases.
  6. Mouse Spiders (Missulena): These burrowing spiders are named for their mouse-like appearance and possess venom that can cause severe pain and illness in humans.

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Several NGOs in Colombia work with animals, including spiders, to promote conservation and education. Some of these organizations include:

  1. Colombian Herpetological Society (Sociedad Herpetológica Colombiana)
    https://www.acherpetologia.org/la-asociacion/
    While primarily focused on reptiles and amphibians, this organization also is involved in spider conservation and research.
  2. The Andean Bear Foundation (Fundación Oso Andino)
    https://osoandino.org/
    Although their primary focus is on Andean bears, this organization also supports initiatives related to spider conservation and habitat protection.
  3. Colombian Entomological Society (Sociedad Colombiana de Entomología)
    https://www.socolen.org.co/
    While primarily focused on insects, this organization also works on projects related to spiders and other arachnids.

These NGOs play important roles in promoting the conservation of wildlife, including spiders and educating the public about their importance in Colombia’s ecosystems.
By supporting these organizations, we can contribute to the preservation of Colombia’s diverse spider communities and the vital role they play in maintaining the ecological balance.


Banana Spiders (Phoneutria)

The Brazilian wandering spider, also called armed spiders or banana spiders, belongs to the genus phoneutria, which means murderess in Greek. It is no wonder why as it is one of the most venomous spiders on the planet.
The banana spider can deliver this highly toxic venom that if left untreated can kill a human being in 2 – 6 hours. The toxin works on the nervous system causing irregular heart rhythms and strangely enough, prolonged painful erections due to the venom increasing nitric oxide levels in the blood. Scientists are actually studying this effect in an effort to treat erectile dysfunction.

The spider can reach over 18 cms/7” in length and is known to wander the jungle floor at night (in contrast to most spiders who build nests and webs). It has also been found in shipments of bananas, hence the common name banana spider.

The banana spider is considered the most dangerous spider in the world due to its potent venom and proximity to humans. Since the spider likes to wander at night, it seeks refuge during the day in dark moist areas including houses, shoes, clothes and log piles. Usually, a human is bitten because the spider was hiding in a shoe or under a blanket. These spiders will not attack humans unless threatened. Should it feel threatened the spider will stand in a very intimidating defensive posture by raising its front legs.

Although bites do occur, usually death does not result because there is a well-known anti-venom and studies show the spider performs dry bites when being defensive to conserve venom.
Regardless, if you come across a banana spider it is best to keep a wide berth.


Black Widow Spiders (Latrodectus)

Their reputations are fierce, but in reality, black widow spiders are calm, loner pacifists that only unleash venomous bites when they have exhausted all other defensive options.
Thirty-two species of the infamous arachnids populate the earth on every continent except Antarctica.

Female black widows carry large loads of venom, while males do not. The black widow is one of the most venomous spiders in the world. Their venom contains a neurotoxin named latrotoxin which causes pain, muscle rigidity, sweating and vomiting.

The female widow has a shiny black body and red hourglass-shaped marking on the abdomen. They are roughly 8 cms/1.5 inches in length. The males, who are half the size, do not have the red hourglass-shaped marking and are harmless.
The black widow’s venom is fifteen times stronger than that of a rattlesnake.

Amazing Black Widow Spider Facts:

  • The strength of black widow webs are similarly stronger than steel. Scientists are actively studying the spider’s weaving silks in the hopes of replicating it for infrastructure projects, like bridges.
  • Latrodectus tredecimguttatus is the most deadly of all 32 widow species.

Black widow spiders do not live long lives. Males typically expire in months and only a smattering of lucky females make it to three years of age.


Brown Recluse Spiders (Loxosceles)

The brown recluse is considered to be the most dangerous recluse spider. Its venom is highly toxic and can cause serious harm to humans including systemic failure and death. The bite can also cause skin necrosis at the injection site which may require ongoing wound care.
One interesting fact about the brown recluse is that the female only needs to mate once in her lifetime. If the female mates one time, then she can produce eggs for the remainder of her life.

The recluse spider is notorious for attaching itself to luggage, vehicles, clothing and entering buildings. When an infestation occurs it is very difficult to eradicate the spiders even with a professional fumigator. The spider can lay hundreds of eggs and hide deep in the building structure to avoid detection.

Brown recluse spiders are usually between 6 and 20 mm/0.24 and 0.79”, but may grow larger. While typically light to medium brown, they range in color from whitish to dark brown or blackish grey.

The brown recluse has three pairs of eyes, unlike most spiders. Instead, while most spiders have eight eyes, recluse spiders have six eyes arranged in pairs (dyads) with one median pair and two lateral pairs.

Adult brown recluse spiders often live for about one to two years. Each female produces several egg sacks over two to three months, with approximately fifty eggs in each sack. The eggs hatch in about one month, with the spiderlings take about one year to grow to adulthood. The brown recluse spider is resilient and can tolerate up to six months of extreme drought and scarcity or absence of food.


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