Can someone help me identify this Brazilian spider?

Can someone help me identify this Brazilian spider?

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Does anyone know anything about the identification of this spider? Sorry, but it's the only image I have. It was shot at 2004, January 25th (summer), at 11:27 AM, in Cerrado biome at Minas Gerais state, Brazil. It was walking over a Paepalanthus inflorescence (Eriocaulaceae), probably waiting to prey on its pollinators. A small section of web can be seen raised to the left (where it apparently comes from another inflorescence), touches one of the small flowers, and then it's apparently still connected to the spider, in a pattern that reminds me of Salticidae, though I'm not sure. I think its size is around 1 cm. I doubt a specific identification will be possible, but family, superfamily, subfamily, anything will be fine.

Interesting! See those long spines on the legs? Only two groups of spiders (that come to mind, anyway) have that sort of arrangement: Lynx Spiders (Family Oxyopidae) and Pirate Spiders (Family Mimetidae). Lynx Spiders are wandering hunters, and the ones I'm familiar with tend to have a body shape more like the familiar Grass Spiders (longish, tear-drop shaped abdomen and hunters cephalothorax - roughly rectangular, and often very blocky at the face. For instance:

So, your spider looks to be a South American Lynx Spider, which unfortunately I'm not at all knowledgeable about.

I'm going to discount Pirate Spiders as a possibility, even with the association there with a bit of web (Pirate Spiders invade other species' webs and kill the occupants), because they're much more 'orb-weaver'-like in their general body shape. This one is so Lynx Spider-like that I am pretty confident that it is one of those.

Are Dangerous Spiders Hiding in Your Fruit?

Probably not, says a new study that shows most hitchhiking arachnids are harmless.

Fruit shipped from afar sometimes arrives with an unwelcome bonus: a large, scary-looking spider.

The arachnids, which hide among bunches of bananas and other fruit shipped from South America to the United States and the United Kingdom, can frighten the daylights out of unsuspecting humans.

Reactions can be extreme: Schools have closed. Homes have been evacuated (again and again). Grocery stores have pulled whole shipments of produce, as occurred in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2013.

This is because people can be quick to assume the stowaways are Brazilian wandering spiders, dangerous South American arachnids with a reputation for being fast, aggressive, and highly toxic (the name of their genus, Phoneutria, means murderess in Greek). (See "7 Bug and Spider Myths Squashed.")

Sometimes, that might be true. But often, the hitchhiking spiders are harmless—victims of a case of mistaken identity, says arachnologist Rick Vetter, now retired from the University of California, Riverside.

Suspecting that wandering spiders rarely go to North America in a fruit basket, Vetter set out in 2006 to determine which spiders are really bumming rides across the Equator.

He searched the scientific literature and asked a fruit importer to report any incidences of spiders turning up in shipments. Then he spent the next eight years identifying who the international stowaways actually were, results that will appear soon in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

In total, Vetter tallied 135 spider hitchhikers, only seven of which were Phoneutria.

National Geographic spoke with Vetter about the most common banana-riding spiders and why it's important to clear up these misconceptions.

Which spiders do you tend to see most commonly in fruit shipments coming to North America?

The main ones are the pantropical huntsman spiders (Heteropoda venatoria)—big, leggy beasts, very attractive—they're the ones with the white moustache. They're found all over the world in tropical areas. Ecuador is where they're coming from in bananas a lot. And the red-faced banana spider (Cupiennius chiapanensis).

How frequently will you find a spider falling out of your bananas?

We really didn't get that many. The most I got was 15 spiders in a year. And this is from somebody who's bringing international cargo into North America. But I only got about half the spiders that people contacted the fruit importer about. (Also see "Ask Your Weird Animal Questions: What Happens If You Swallow a Spider?")

What are the economic impacts of misidentifying spider species?

This has caused, and can cause, some severe economic situations. [Say] you've got $26,000 worth of bananas sitting on a ship because somebody has identified this thing as a deadly wandering spider. Or you have 20 truckloads of wicker furniture from Mexico that they are going to fumigate and then develop a personal-protection program for their employees.

So what my paper is doing is giving information to the entomologists and arachnologists so they can properly identify the spiders—and there's also information about how toxic these things are, and it should stop some of the insanity that goes on when people find a large spider in their fruits.

In terms of the spiders being found in fruit and the hyperbolic response to those discoveries, who do you think is most to blame for that? The people who are finding the spiders? The people who are misidentifying them?

It's a combination. Part of the problem is that these spiders are misidentified online. They'll have a picture that they say is a wandering spider, but it's a photo of the red-faced spider, which is harmless. (See a video of the world's biggest spider.)

And then there's the psychology: If there are two ways you can go with something—something that's harmless, or something that's potentially dangerous—people always go down the dangerous route. Which may be a survival instinct. Maybe it's better to take something as dangerous, even if it's harmless, than to figure it's harmless when it's dangerous.

Why do you think people choose the thing that is scary versus the thing that is not?

It's much more exciting to say, "I found a deadly, toxic spider!" than to say, "I found something that's harmless."

I was giving a talk and said to the audience, "If you get a bacterial infection, do you tell anyone about it? No. But if you think you have a brown recluse bite, you tell everybody! You put it in your Christmas letter." (See "Why Did Thousands of Venomous Spiders Swarm a House?")

After the talk, I was in the lobby, and a guy comes up and he says, "We thought my wife was bitten by a brown recluse . and you're right, we did put it in our Christmas letter."

Brazilian wandering spider: Where are they from and how deadly are they?

The world’s most venomous spider has been delivered to a south London home in a bunch of bananas.

Specialists were called in to trap the Brazilian wandering spider, which ripped its leg off in a bid to escape and left an egg sac full of thousands of baby spiders behind.

The family who received the deadly arachnid in their Waitrose online shop told the Mail on Sunday they were “too traumatised to remain in the house”, while the supermarket apologised for the “distressing” incident.

It was not the first time a Brazilian wandering spider made the long journey to the UK.

In 2005, a chef in Somerset was bitten by a stowaway that had been hiding in bananas delivered to his pub.

He was saved by anti-venom administered after a nearby zoo identified the arachnid from a picture he took on his phone before passing out.

The spiders and their eggs have also been found in bananas from a Tesco in Essex and One Stop in Staffordshire.

Where are they from?

Fortunately, it is very rare to find Brazilian wandering spiders in the UK or anywhere outside their natural habitat in South America.

They live in the forests of Costa Rica, Columbia, Peru, Brazil, and Paraguay and gain their name from the habit of moving across jungle floors at night in search of food.

In the day, they like hiding in places that are dark and moist and are known to favour piles of wood, garages, cupboards, shoes and even heaps of clothes.

The apparent tendency to hide in banana bunches – like in the latest incident – has given them the nickname “banana spider”.

Their scientific name translates as “murderess” in Greek and they are also known as the “armed spider”, because of their unusual attacking stance, and “horse stinger”.

How deadly is it?

The Guinness Book of World Records has named it the most venomous spider in the world for possessing the most active neurotoxic venom of any living spider.

The toxin PhTx3 causes extreme pain, swelling, paralysis, skin cell destruction, fatal breathing complications, heart attacks and painful erections (priapism) in men lasting up to four-hours.

Victims of a Brazilian wandering spider bite can reportedly be killed in an hour.

But few deaths occur because an effective anti-venom is available in Brazil and Guinness claims that people are killed, it is usually in children under the age of seven.

Scientists have reportedly considered investigating the use of the deadly venom as a possible ingredient for drugs treating erectile dysfunction.

What do Brazilian wandering spiders look like?

There are eight known species, with the most dangerous being the Phoneutria fera and the Phoneutria nigriventer.

All vary slightly in appearance but are known for their size, with a leg span of up to 15 cm (6 ins) and body length of up to 5 cm (2 ins).

They are covered with hair and usually dark brown in colour, with some displaying bright red hairs on their venom glands.

When Brazilian wandering spiders feel threatened, they adopt a distinctive “attacking” stance with their front legs in the air, swaying from side to side.

How do they attack?

The spiders use bites as their main form of attack but do not always deliver venom, using it only in an estimated third of bites.

They eat insects and small mammals, including other spiders, amphibians, reptiles and mice, hunting them on the ground and killing with an ambush or direct attack.

11. False widow spider

Joaquim Alves Gaspar/Wikimedia Commons

Ranking spiders by dangerousness is largely a subjective thing some have more powerful venom, while others apparently bite more often. But here's a loose ranking based on, if nothing else, downright scariness.

There's nothing false about the threat from the false widow spider, often cited as the most venomous in the United Kingdom.

Goliath Birdeater Tarantula

(Theraphosa blondi)

Goliath birdeater tarantula

The Goliath birdeater tarantula is found in northern South America, and is the largest spider in the world – by both weight (up to 175 grams) and body size (up to 13 centimeters).

Despite its cool name, this spider mainly feeds on insects, though will hunt small rodents, frogs, and lizards opportunistically. It’s certainly scary looking, with good sized fangs, but their venom is actually relatively harmless to humans, comparable to a wasp sting.

Spider Facts and Information

Spider Facts and Information. Feeding, habitat, distribution, reproduction, anatomy and more.
Facts about the Brown Recluse Spider, Tarantula, Camel Spider, Wolf Spider, Black Widow Spider and many others.

Introduction to Spiders

The Spider can be an interesting as well as a scary creature. There are several types of them and they range in size and coloring. What may surprise you though is that generally the larger ones aren’t nearly as dangerous as some of the smaller ones. You can judge what a Spider will do based on size and looks alone.

There are fossil remains to show that the Spider has been around for more than 400 million years. Yet we still lack sufficient evidence to be able to tell what occurred over time for them. There are quite a few speculations about the types of evolution that have occurred for them over time.

There is plenty of diversity out there among the Spider populations. In fact, they rank 7th in the world. The only place in the world where they don’t live in on Antarctica. They are found in all forms of habitats and that includes around humans.

Spiders can range in size from extremely small to very large. Some of them blend in so well with their surroundings that you won’t even know they are around. They all have four sets of legs so eight in all. They also have four sets of eyes that they use to help them because they don’t have a good sense of balance.

Spiders generally move very slowly but they don’t have to worry too much about various predators. Most of them have a very powerful venom that they deliver and will paralyze predators. There are types of Spiders with venom strong enough to make humans very ill or even cause death.

As a result many humans are afraid of Spiders. They tend to do all they can to get them out of their homes and habitats. With humans continually invading the territory of the Spider they are having a hard time finding places where they won’t run into humans.

However, Spiders are very good at adapting to changing environments. They don’t need much food to survive on. These predators often find many bugs and insects. They get tangled into the webs and then they are stuck for the spider to come along and feed on.

Top Spider Facts

  1. Spiders are classified as invertebrates. They don’t have a backbone.
  2. There are believed to be at least 50,000 species of Spiders in the world.More Facts about Spiders…

The abdominal area of a Spider is where the silk to create the webs is made. It is amazing to watch them work so diligently to create their elaborate webs. The mating process for males and females is also interesting. The females are much larger than the males.

The males will deliver sperm onto a location and then the female will insert it into her body. In many instances the males will be consumed by the female after mating has taken place. It isn’t fully understood why that occurs. As a result most mature Spiders you will see are going to be female. As many as 3,000 eggs can be delivered at once for some species.

There is still plenty we don’t know about the lifestyle and the life cycle of the Spider. With many of the species they are a huge mystery. Their numbers can be hard to identify too due to the fact that they have such a diversified habitat. Still, researchers continue to look for answers. Part of that research is also to find treatments that work well when someone has been bitten by a poisonous Spider.

Some species of Spiders are currently in danger of extinction due to human efforts. Heavy hunting combined with loss of habitat can prove to be too much for many of them. Most humans aren’t fond of spiders and so they don’t have anything to do with saving them.

Biggest Spiders

1. Goliath birdeater

It belongs to the tarantula and is found in the region of Northern South America. It is the world’s largest spider in terms of mass and size. But it is second to giant Huntsman spider by leg span. It generally preys on small birds. Unlike other spiders, females do not eat males during mating. Females in 3 to 5 years and live for 15 to 25 years. Males die just after maturity and live only for 3 to 6 years. Their body colour varies from dark to light brown with faint marks on the body. Female lay eggs from 100 to 200 at a time in the burrows made by them. In threatening conditions, the Goliath birdeater rub their abdomen with hind legs and release hairs which irritate the skin of the opponent.

During the day, they live in burrows and comes out in the night to hunt. Because of poor eyesight, they detect its prey with the help of vibrations on the ground and then pounce on the prey and inject venom with the help of their fangs. They are large and one of the biggest spiders in the world, however, their most common defence is to run their back legs against their tummy which flicks tiny, sharp hairs into the air. Despite their name, they don’t eat birds but love to eat lizards, frogs and small mammals.


They are large long-legged spider measuring up to 15 cm across the legs. These spiders have eight eyes. They are mostly grey to brown with black coloured markings on their body. Though their vision is not Good as compared to other spiders and they could only see approaching objects which are at a closer distance to them. Huntsman spiders do not build webs instead they hunt for food. They are also called wood spiders because they prefer a woody place to live. They live in logs, a loose branch of trees and rock walls. These spiders are notorious and sometimes enter the house and in cars. Female spiders lay up to 200 eggs at one time and guard it for 3 weeks. Generally, Huntsman spider does not come under the category of danger spider. It is one of the biggest spiders in the world.

It is mostly seen in the tree trunks, under bark, beneath stones or on the walls of houses and some of the species live between the hairline cracks of sandstone and granite outcrops. The species love to eat insects, arthropods, small lizards and frogs. The fangs of the species are large enough to hold the food item until it has been immobilised by the spider’s venom. The spider bites can be painful to humans and can cause mild nausea and headaches.


The species is believed to be the world’s third largest species of tarantula. It is a fast-growing species and spends most of their times outside playing an adult. They are uniform black coloured and once mature they have pink hair all over the body. Mature mails have tibial hooks on the front pair of legs. This hook back’s a female leg during mating. When In threatening conditions, tarantula raises its front leg and try to stop its enemy. If the attacker doesn’t stop here tarantula tries to bite. It is said that tarantula prefers biting in the last situations, else it makes use of urticating hair which if thrown in eyes causes blindness. During breeding season, males drop their sperm onto the female webbed mat. Brazilian salmon pink are very popular in captivity due to their size and appearances.

One of the largest tarantulas in the world can grow upto diameter of six inches during the first year of his life. Talking about the appearance, the species is pink coloured with long salmon-coloured hairs sticking out from their legs, mouthparts and abdomens. The colouration is one of the best and unique way to identify these tarantulas. Also, as the name suggests it not like that they will at only birds, sometimes they attack small birds, however, most of the time they love to eat insects, lizards, frogs and mice.


This species is famous with common name Indian ornamental tree spider found in the Easter and western ghats of Indian Subcontinent. They are elongated species with legs reaching 18 cm in males and 22 cm in females. They are grey coloured spiders with a wonderful complex of black and white stripes and chevron. They show yellow bright spots of colour at the 1st pair of legs at warning time. They usually prefer to feed small flying insects, cockroaches and even a small mouse. The species have venom that has medicinal uses.

5. Sun Spider

One of the largest spiders in the world, Sun spider also famous with names camel spiders, wind scorpions, or solifuges. The largest species grow up to 5-6 inches. It belongs to solifugae an order of animal in the class Arachnida. The largest species can reach up to 12 to 15 cm in length including legs. Many urban legends have stated from their experience that size, ability and potential danger to human from Solifugae are negligible. The body of Solifugae has two tagmata – an opisthosoma and prosoma. Despite their common name they are neither categorised as spider nor scorpions. Solifugae have five legs but only four hind legs are true legs and each leg have seven segments. Solifugae have eversible adhesive organ and they use it to prey flying insects.

Talking about the appearance, sun spider is tan, brown or reddish brown in colour with a hairy body. They are equipped with elongated jaws known as chelicerae and have 4 pairs of long legs with one pair of leg-like sensory organs known as pedipalps exist near the jaw. Additionally known as “wind scorpion” because of the scorpion-like body and its ability to run like a wind. The lifespan of the spider is two years in the wild.

6. King baboon spider

King baboon spider is found in the east African countries like Tanzania and Kenya. King baboon is borrowing spider which lives in burrows they made on grasslands. These spiders have venom which they use to kill their prey. They feed on insects, lizards, cockroaches, birds and can even kill mice. Unlike other spiders they don’t have urticating hairs then also they can be very defensive. They are slow growing spiders that grow up to 20 cm in leg span. It is the only species from the genus pelinobius. Spider ranges its colour from rusty brown to orange coloured. King Baboon spiders are preyed upon by birds, baboon and other mammals. Adult spiders can be kept in the aquarium which should contain 10-20 Gallons of water, a hidden area and shallow water dish should also be provided.

They are mostly seen in residing in the burrows in the ground with silk at the entrance to detect the vibrations of the passing prey. During the day they hide in the burrows and usually hunt in the night. They love to kill and eat beetles, cockroaches, spiders and even mice, lizards, small snakes and birds with the help of their powerful fangs to deliver a nasty bite. These spiders are quite common and seen in the grasslands of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

7. Tarantula

The tarantula can found in the regions across the earth. Tarantulakept as pets has urticating hairs that can cause irritation to skin and can damage eyes. Tarantula has a long life of 15 to 25 years. It is an invertebrate that relies on an exoskeleton for muscular support. Tarantula size varies from the size of fingernails to as large as a dinner plate. The largest species of tarantula weighs 85 gram and the largest of all Goliath eater in Brazil weighs 170 gram. Tarantula is becoming famous pets. Tarantula is borrowers that live on the ground. Their natural habitats include savanna, grasslands such as rainforest, deserts, scrubland and cloud forests.

Almost all tarantulas are hairy in appearance and have 8 legs and 2 fangs. Despite 8 eyes, they don’t have a good vision and mostly depend on the vibration to detect its prey. They love to eat insects, small lizards and even birds, however, they have a lot of enemies like Snakes, lizards, birds, coyote, and foxes. The species produces silk to mark its area, protect its eggs and hide in nests. The spider has a lifespan of 5-10 years, however, females can live upto 20 years.


One of the scariest spiders, Brazillian wandering is mainly found in the regions of North America and Central America. Phoneturia is a genus of venomous spiders. The genus as a whole is sometimes called a Brazilian wandering spider because they wander in the night at jungles rather than waiting for the victim at their web. Phoneturia is also famous with names like Armed spider and banana spider. The spider in this genus can grow up to a leg span of 12 to 15 cm. To defend themselves they use to raise front two legs and characteristics Colour pattern of their body tells they are in danger. Besides the pain in their venomous bite, it also causes priapism in humans.

The spiders are vest recognized because they stand on the back legs while lifting its front legs. One of the most poisonous animals doesn’t hesitate to attack humans if provoked. They are mostly seen under the rocks during the daytime and love to hunt in the night. They are mostly seen in the highly populated areas of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Espirito Sanito.

9. Grammostola

These are medium-sized spiders native to tropical South America. These spiders come in brown colour with pinkish or orangish-red hairs. They are regarded as beginning species from tarantula family. The Chilean Rose tarantula is a common pet due to its obedient behaviour and its venom being mild. They try to keep themselves dry because they hate being getting dried. It feeds on small invertebrate insects.

They are mostly seen in the desert and scrub regions of Northern Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina and loves to hunt in the night. They love to eat grasshoppers, crickets, moths, beetles, cockroaches and mealworms and sometimes also grab the pinky mouse. The best food for the pets tarantulas are crickets that will be the best source of hydrated nutrition for the tarantula.

10.Cerbalus Aravaensis

A species which belongs to Huntsman spider and can be found in Israel and Jordan. Spider has a leg span of 14 cm which is the largest member of sparaissade In middle East Asia and hence listed as one of the largest spiders in the world. Female are generally bigger in size than males. Males have a body length of 1.85 cm to 2.40 cm while females have a body length of 2.20 cm to 2.65 cm. At night and in hotter summers it is a more active spider. It constructs underground dens with trap-like door and put sand and glue over it in order to make the door disguise from predators.

How to Identify a Spitting Spider

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Spitting spiders are named for their cool way of catching prey: spraying the prey with a venomous glue, or “spit.” Spitting spiders are found all over the world, from North America to Australia. If you’re trying to identify a spitting spider, you should keep an eye out for their characteristic body shape, patterning, and spitting, of course! Knowing where to find these critters can help identify them, too.

Mysterious, new tarantula-like spider identified in the Florida Everglades

From Zoo Miami

An elusive spider related to the tarantula just joined the ranks of recognized spiders.

The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider lives in the Florida Everglades and it’s a rare breed. It has only been spotted a handful of times since the 1920s and only recently did the clever arachnid get its name for the habitat it lives in, according to Rebecca Godwin, an assistant professor of biology at Piedmont University.

These spiders likely only live in the pine rockland habitat of southern Florida, which is “highly threatened,” Godwin told CNN. Their homeland of pines growing on limestone outcrops has slowly been destroyed by mankind.

“Development, urbanization, land clearing, anything that destroys the topsoil could potentially wipe out whole populations and especially for a spider that occurs in such a small range of really threatened habitat, you kind of risk losing the species all together,” Godwin said.

The spider is one of 33 new species from the Americas to be added to the genus Ummidia, which are trapdoor spiders. Godwin and Jason E. Bond, an entomology professor from University of California, Davis, co-authored the study, published in April in the journal ZooKeys.

“The fact that a new species like this could be found in a fragment of endangered forest in the middle of the city underscores the importance of preserving these ecosystems before we lose not only what we know, but also what is still to be discovered,” Frank Ridgley, Zoo Miami Conservation & Veterinary Services Manager, said in a news release.

Finding and collecting enough examples of the spider has been tricky.

A zookeeper checking reptile research traps at Zoo Miami snapped a photo of the large-bodied spider in 2012 and two years later, another one was found. The mysterious spider didn’t match any species on record, the zoo said in a press release.

The zoo sent the data to Godwin, who has been studying trapdoor spiders for almost a decade. The previous samples she had from museums were from the 1920s and 1950s, she said.

“It was really exciting for me,” Godwin said. “Even only having one to two specimens, I was already pretty sure it was a new species.”

The characteristics of the male trapdoor spiders are what help identify the species, she said. The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider is a black and about one to 1.5 inches across, including the legs. The males have an opalescent abdomen, she said.

“If one were to call spiders beautiful, I find it a very gorgeous looking spider,” Godwin said.

No females of this species have yet to be found, Godwin said. Other females in the trapdoor spider group usually have a front end that looks like patent leather, she added.

Trapdoor spiders are related to tarantulas. They tend to be smaller, less hairy, their fangs point a different way and they share some physical features with their tarantula cousins, Godwin said.

Even though large spiders can freak people out, Godwin said these trapdoor spiders are not coming to get you. The spiders live in such a small area and they burrow into the ground, living in it for most of its life. Some female spiders of this group can live to be more than 20 years old.

While they are venomous — most spiders are — the venom of the Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider is not “medically important,” Godwin said. Translation: The venom isn’t dangerous to humans.

Research on the venom could yield interesting applications to humans, according to Ridgley.

“Venoms of related species have been found to contain compounds with potential use as pain medications and cancer treatments,” Ridgley said.

When Godwin talks about her work with spiders, she said she typically hears how many spiders a person has smashed that week.

“I feel like working on spiders, you spend a lot of your time just fighting bad press,” Godwin said. “It’s an uphill battle to point out these are helping organisms, if anything. They don’t carry any diseases to give to humans, they are not aggressive and literally live underground.”

Trapdoor spiders are known for creating a door to their burrow and staying underground, Godwin said. They stick out their legs and grab small bugs scampering by without having to leave their bunker. When in danger, they shut their silk-spun door and ward off intruders.

The Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider and other previously “unknown diversity” are what fascinate Godwin the most about our planet. She wants to keep studying spiders like this one, who lives in a habitat “in peril,” before that’s lost, she said.

“I’m continually blown away about how little we know about what is out there living on the planet with us,” Godwin said. “There are so many species getting lost, going extinct before we even knew they ever existed.”

Spider Research

Every once in a while in North America, a large spider (or a spider egg sac) is found in international cargo, most commonly in bananas. The spider is collected and taken to a local “authority” who typically has no arachnological experience. A quick search of the Internet leads the “authority” to identify the spider as a deadly armed or wandering spider of Brazil (genus Phoneutria) and then, panic and hyperbolic media coverage ensues. However, most of the time, these incidents are misidentifications of harmless spiders. This is due in part to the dynamic nature of being associated with a potential dangerous animal. People like to jump to the exciting conclusion that they are dealing with a “deadly” creature. Another contributor to the hyperbole is that a quick identification is understandably forced by a desire to know if the spider is indeed dangerous so that cargo crews will not suffer envenomations and cargo can then be unloaded before it decays (in the case of fruit). People then err on the side of the fantastic rather than caution.

Information regarding spiders collected from bananas can be found in the two articles below, which can be obtained from me in PDF form with an email request. [email protected]

Vetter, R.S. and S. Hillebrecht. 2008. On distinguishing two often-misidentified genera (Cupiennius, Phoneutria) (Araneae: Ctenidae) of large spiders found in Central and South American cargo shipments. American Entomologist 54: 82-87.

Vetter, R. S., R. L. Crawford and D. J. Buckle. 2014. Spiders (Araneae) found in bananas and other international cargo submitted to North American arachnologists for identification. Journal of Medical Entomology 51: 1136-1143.

Information on spider egg sacs found on bananas is also presented below but read through the information on the spiders first

Armed spiders (Genus Phoneutria)

Spiders of the genus Phoneutria cause the greatest concern. Typically, harmless spiders are misidentified as Phoneutria spiders when intercepted in cargo. The reason for this misidentification is the well-known fact that some species of Phoneutria have red hairs on their chelicerae (the two structures below the eyes on the “face” which have fangs at the end). Unfortunately, these are not the only large spiders found in bananas that have these red hairs. Because almost no one in North America has the proper identification publications for South American spiders, they turn to either the Internet (where the spiders are often already misidentified) or the Golden Guide to Spiders, a very rudimentary identification guide.

The dangers associated with these spiders for North Americans are very much overexaggerated. First, the most cited dangerous species is Phoneutria fera. This is actually an Amazonian species, (i.e., it lives in the Brazilian Amazon) far from areas of human commerce and the Brazilian banana plantations and, therefore, they don’t have the opportunity to be transported in cargo, or at least are highly unlikely to be so moved. In Germany from decades ago, specimens listed as imported P. fera were most likely misidentified specimens of other Phoneutria species. (One must also keep in mind that Phoneutria taxonomy has been a nightmare for the last century with new species being named and other names being absorbed by other existing species, back and forth almost like an Abbott and Costello comedy routine. It is really difficult sometimes to pin down a name because for some spider groups, the taxonomy is not yet settled). The spiders intercepted in Germany were most likely specimens of P. nigriventer and P. keyserlingi, which are only found on the Atlantic coast of Brazil and are mostly involved in Brazilian envenomations. All three of these spiders can get up to 50 mm in body length. However, they still are not nearly as deadly as people claim. In one study of 422 Phoneutria bites in coastal Brazil, only 2.3% of the victims required antivenom and the only death was one small child. Although there is an obvious major concern when children are bitten, most bite victims experienced minor problems without long-lasting effects and certainly not death. Most of the bites were in adults minor symptoms resolved without complications.

Although these large spiders were transported in bananas to Europe many years ago, currently, Brazil consumes almost all of its banana crop domestically so now there is less chance for the spiders to be transported out of the country, at least in fruit.

On the west coast of South America, another species, P. boliviensis, exists and has occasionally been transported in cargo to North America (mostly from Ecuador). However, in comparison to its eastern relatives, this species is smaller (30 mm body length) and its envenomation effects are milder. A paper on bites in plantation workers revealed annoying symptoms but no deaths. Workers missed 2 to 3 days of work. So even if these spiders were transported to North America, they are not considered very dangerous and should not cause concern.

To summarize:

  1. The dangerous species of Phoneutria are found in the Amazon where interaction with people is rare and transport out of the country in commerce is highly unlikely.
  2. The two species associated with high human population on the eastern Brazilian coast cause human envenomations but are not as dangerous as they are reported to be. Although they can cause death in young children, most bite victims experience mild reactions.
  3. Brazil no longer exports much of their banana crop.
  4. The western South American species of Phoneutria is much smaller than the eastern species and although sometimes is transported, it is not a major medical concern when bites occur.
  5. All Phoneutria species are virtually restricted to South America. If a spider is found in a banana shipment from Central America, then it is highly unlikely to be a Phoneutria spider (see next section)

Cupiennius spiders

These are the spiders that are most frequently mistaken as Phoneutria spiders. They are large, found in banana shipments and one species, Cupiennius chiapanensis, has bright red hairs on its chelicerae. One major contributing factor to the confusion is that C. chiapanensis was only officially described in 2006 so only a few arachnologists in Central America were aware of this spider. There are other species, C. getazi, and C. coccineus, which have sometimes been transported to North America in bananas. The large species of Cupiennius, which are most frequently found in banana shipments in North America, live exclusively in Central America. They have characteristic coloration:

Cupiennius chiapanensis- bright red hairs on chelicerae

Cupiennius getazi- underside of legs near body has black dots on white background

Cupiennius coccineus - underside of front legs near body has bright red hairs

Cupiennius getazi

However, because C. chiapanensis has bright red hairs on the chelicerae and was only recently described, almost no sources have accurate information on this spider. Hence, it looks closest to Phoneutria fera and then the hysteria starts. I am aware of 6 cases where a North American arachnologist (including myself) as well as several Mexican authors made misidentifications, most of which came before 2006. No species of Cupiennius spider is considered dangerous and verified bites result in mild pain for a short time with no long-lasting effects.

To summarize:

  1. Cupiennius spiders are often found in banana shipments to North America but are harmless.
  2. Cupiennius spiders are virtually restricted to Central America or at least the ones that end up in banana shipments come only from Central America.
  3. Cupiennius chiapanensis has only been officially known since 2006 and is frequently mistaken as the potentially dangerous Phoneutria fera, even by experienced arachnologists because both spider species have red hairs on their chelicerae.

Huntsman spider, Heteropoda venatoria

This spider is established worldwide in tropical areas including Hawaii and Florida. It is frequently found in cargo shipments of all kinds and in bananas is common from Ecuador. It has a white “moustache” under its eyes and holds it legs rotated to the side like a crab. The males and females have strikingly different coloration. These spiders are harmless.

Summary for the entire page so far

  1. If you have a large spider found in bananas from a country in Central America, it is most probably going to be a harmless species of the genus Cupiennius.
  2. If you have a large spider found in bananas from western South America (i.e., Ecuador), if it has a white moustache, it is the harmless huntsman spider, Heteropoda venatoria. If large but with no moustache, possibly it is Phoneutria boliviensis, which is of minor medical concern but could also be one of several other non-related species.
  3. You can’t use the red facial hairs alone to accurately identify a large spider found in bananas.
  4. None of these spiders are deadly.

Spider egg sacs found on bananas

In the last few years, there have been more incidences of egg sacs found on bananas brought into North America. Most of these are crushed during shipment but on occasion a few survive transport and babies can hatch out of them, causing panic in the home owner. And once again, people who have no arachnological training immediately identify these egg sacs as the hyperbolically-dangerous Phoneutria fera spider. First of all, the general public is notoriously bad in identifying spiders in bananas when comparing pictures. Considering how there is almost nothing in the scientific literature on egg sacs of these spiders, it is really amazing that people are so assured that they have correctly identified the egg sac to one species of spider.

In regard to this, I have personally seen 10 to 20 egg sacs from bananas, several with live spiderlings. I was not successful in raising the babies they wouldn’t eat anything that I offered them including each other and I have reared thousands of baby spiders of other species to adulthood in my career. So people freak out because they fear that these spiders will establish in their homes, when I couldn’t get them to eat anything to get them to the next instar (stage between molts).

In addition, the egg sacs that I have been receiving have about 50 to 200 eggs inside. According to a paper in the Journal of Arachnology, Phoneutria boliviensis, (the small Phoneutria spider) lays an average of 836 eggs in its egg sac with a range of 430 to 1300 eggs. So the egg sacs that I have been receiving are much smaller than the smallest Phoneutria egg sac. Also, from the spiderlings that I have examined, they look closest to a small harmless spider genus, Acanthoctenus. But because these spiders are so small and hard to identify, there is also the possibility that they are being laid by some other species that is never found in bananas so we have no idea what species it is.

But the overall message here is that the egg sacs that have been coming through in bananas do not appear to be anything dangerous and the reports of “deadly” banana spiderlings being found by home owners is just another case of misidentification and unwarranted media hyperbole.

Watch the video: Can anyone please help me identify this background music i heard from the radio? (June 2022).


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