Brazilian Wandering Spider
Phoneutria, commonly known as Brazilian wandering spiders, armed spiders, or banana spiders, are a genus of aggressive and venomous spiders of potential medical significance to humans.
When a spider’s scientific name is derived from the Greek for murderess (Phoneutria) you can guess it’s going to be trouble and this is certainly the case for the wandering spiders. According to Guinness World Records the Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria fera) is officially the world’s most venomous spider. It is capable of injecting a powerful neurotoxin which is nearly 20 times more deadly that that of the Black Widow spider if it gets into the blood stream. That is as potent as the venom of many deadly snake species and the effects are similar. The symptoms of envenomation include a loss of muscle control leading to breathing problems which can result in complete respiratory paralysis and eventually asphyxiation.
But there are two other major side effects to the wandering spider’s bite; firstly there is intense pain and secondly, if you happen to be male there is the four hour hard on. Yes, you did read that correctly – the bite of the Brazilian wandering spider can cause an erection that lasts for several hours, unfortunately it is also painful.
In addition to the this deadly venom the behaviour of the wandering spider make it particularly dangerous to humans. As its name suggests the spiders are not confined to a web in a dark corner. In fact they like to turn up in all manner of hiding places; boots, piles of clothes, log piles, cars and bunches of bananas. Also known as ‘banana spiders’ wandering spiders have been known to hitch a ride across the globe in boxes of bananas. In one case a man in the UK was bitten after buying bananas in his local supermarket.
There is little doubt that these are dangerous spiders. Their aggressive nature and close contact with humans have resulted in a number of deaths over the years. In one tragic case a single spider was responsible for the deaths of two children in São Paulo. Fortunately an effective antivenom has been developed and there have been relatively few fatalities since.