With over 300 diverse ecosystems, Colombia is a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of wildlife, including spiders! That’s right, the country boasts 100’s if not 1000’s of spider species within it’s borders. Most spiders are harmless. In fact, most spiders are good because they help get rid of invasive and annoying bugs like mosquitoes and cockroaches. With that said, not all spiders are harmless and some can be dangerous.
In this article we will take a look at 5 of the craziest spiders in Colombia. From the banana spider to the brown recluse, these spiders can be dangerous. Let’s get started!
The banana spider, also known as the Brazilian wandering spider and armed spider is one of the most venomous spiders in the world (the Hawaiian garden spider and golden silk-orb weaver are also considered banana spiders but in this article we will focus on the the Brazilian wandering spider). The spider can reach over 7 inches in length and is known to wander the jungle floor at night (in contrast to spiders who build nests and webs). It has also been found in shipments of bananas, hence the common name “banana spider”.
The banana spider can deliver a 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 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, when a human is bitten it’s because the spider was hiding in a shoe or under a blanket. These spiders will not attack humans unless threatened. If it feels threatened the spider will stand in a very intimidating defensive posture by raising its front legs. Although many bites occur, usually death does not result because there is a well-known antivenom (and studies show the spider performs “dry bites” when being defensive to conserve venom). Regardless, if you see a banana spider it’s best to stay away!
Black widow spiders
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. After mating it’s common for the female to kill the male and cannibalize the body, hence the name “black widow”. Although the bite of a black widow can cause severe discomfort, it’s rarely fatal. When deaths from black widow bites occur the victim is often a child or elderly individual.
The female widow has a shiny black body and red hourglass-shaped marking on the abdomen. They are roughly 1.5 inches in length. The males are half the size, do not have the red hourglass-shaped marking and are harmless. The female black widows venom is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake. Stay away from these spiders!
Brown recluse spiders
The brown recluse (also known as the Chilean recluse) is considered to be the most dangerous recluse spider. It’s 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. Although most bites do not pose a problem, approximately 10% cause symptoms from itching to death. One interesting fact about the brown recluse is the female only needs to mate one time throughout her life. That’s right, if the female mates one time she is able to produce eggs for the remainder of her life.
The recluse is notorious for “hitchhiking” (attaching to luggage, vehicles, clothing etc.) into buildings. When an infestation occurs it’s very difficult to get rid of the spiders even with a professional fumigator. The spider can lay hundreds of eggs and hide deep in the building structure to avoid detection. Believe me when I say you don’t want these crawling into your home.
The Colombian giant red-legged tarantula
Colombia has it’s own version of the well-known tarantula and it’s striking appearance is breathtaking to behold. These spiders are very common in the rainforests of Colombia. Known by the Latin name Megaphobema robustum (meaning large, fearsome and robust) and its common name giant red-legged tarantula, the spider is exactly as described. With a leg span over 7 inches long and a fearsome red-amber tint, the spider can look quite menacing. The spider also has urticating hairs on its legs which are used for defensive purposes. The hairs can cause severe skin irritation in some people. These spiders are kept as pets in some parts of the world but they are never handled, only observed.
There is a interesting and drastic gender difference between the sexes of these spiders. While male red-legs live for approximately 5 years, females can live for 20! I find that amazing!
In conclusion, the giant red-legged spider can’t kill you, but it can cause severe skin discomfort with its hairs. These spiders are not social animals and like to be left alone. In fact, if you put two of these spiders together they will fight to the death and cannibalism will occur.
Colombia is full of exotic and spectacular wildlife including spiders. Nature is fascinating and it’s fun to see these creatures up close in their natural habitat. Just remember to be careful and take precaution. Never touch spiders in the wild and keep a safe distance. If you follow these general guidelines observing spiders is safe.
Tip: when camping in the jungle, cover the top of your shoes with your socks. We hope you liked this article and learned something about spiders!