The world’s deadliest spider, the Brazilian Wandering Spider, was found in a bunch of bananas in a Whole Foods Store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Read 3/19/2009 update at article end. See photos and a video below.
Brazilian Wandering Spider (Photo)
Beware purchasing fruit bundled in plastic bags or plastic containers with air holes. Some deadly spiders can survive long transport from many exotic places around the world, and take-up residence in your friendly local grocery store. A Whole Foods employee in Tulsa recognized the spider, sometimes known as the “Banana Spider,” as the Brazilian Wandering Spider nestled in a bunch of Honduran bananas, and was able to capture it. It now resides at the University of Tulsa’s Animal Facilities Department. Director Terry Childs says the Brazilian Wandering Spider is responsible for more human deaths than any other spider, and the bite can kill a person within 25 minutes.
The Brazilian Wandering Spider, genus Phoneutria – Family Ctenidae, was first discovered in the Amazon jungle, but it is often found in the rainforests of South and Central America. It eschews webs and burrows and instead, wanders the jungle floor looking for insects. It does not eat bananas, but hides in the leaves of the plant, and does enjoy the insects found around them.
This large spider, capable of a 4 to 5 inch leg span, is hairy with strong, spindly legs. They move quickly, they have eight eyes, and one of their most distinctive features are red jaws which they display when angered.
The Brazilian Wandering Spider is sometimes confused with the Tarantula, but there are few similarities other than their hairy bodies. Tarantula’s are are not poisonous, but they can have a painful bite. The Brazilian Wandering Spider is considered an aggressive and active hunter. These spiders eat large insects, small mice and lizards. The babies eat fruit flies and small insects.
The Brazilian Wandering Spider hides in dark places during the day time. Closets and boxes (maybe shoes) are preferred once one of these creatures manages to get inside a home or garage. Rubbish outside a dwelling harbors this spider, and the leaves of bananas make a favorite homestead.
The Phoneutria species of the the Wandering Spiders is considered vicious and deadly. The venom has a potent neurotoxin – acting on the nervous system. The bite is excruciatingly painful due to a high concentration of serotonin and a highly active venom. Symptoms include immediate pain, cold sweats, heart irregularities and in men, an erect and painful penis for possibly four hours, known as “priapism,” is considered a medical emergency. There is an anti-venom for the Brazilian Wandering Spider, but the question is, will your local health department have it when you need it? The answer is, in the U.S., probably not. These spiders are believed to bite more people than any other spider species.
Finding deadly spiders in grocery store fruit is not all that unusual. Black Widows like to hide in bunches of grapes, and there are numerous reports of finding them in the fruit bowl once the grapes arrive home. The Brazilian Wandering Spider, or Banana Spider, was reported in a “banana consignment” delivered to a UK primary School – not the place you want to find the “World’s Deadliest Spider,” as the venom is particularly deadly for small children. “Cautious” rummaging through the fruit displays at your grocer, and thorough check of the fruit before toting it home, is a good idea.
Update 3/19/2009: A University of Tulsa spokesman reports that the Brazilian Wandering Spider has been destroyed. Terry Childs, the director of the Animal Facility at the University, said he was urged to destroy the spider by TU officials who were concerned for the safety of those on campus. A conflict is brewing between the University and Barry Downer, the curator of Aquariums and Herpetology at the Tulsa Zoo, who said the Zoo would have housed the spider, out of public view, and preserved it for study purposes. Downer believes that the spider was not the deadly Brazilian Wandering Spider but a harmless-to-humans “Huntsman”spider. The Zoo is questioning how and why the spider died and why the spider-body will not be made available to the Zoo. Tulsa University says they are looking into the matter.
Brazilian Wandering Spider, Banana Spider (Photo)
Brazilian Wandering Spider – World’s Deadliest Spider (Video)
Photo: João Burini