Answers written by Paula E. Cushing, Ph.D., curator of entomology
Is it true that daddy longlegs is the most poisonous spider, but
its fangs are too small to pierce human skin?
is absolutely not true! Daddy longlegs are not spiders and do not
have fangs or venom. In the United States, the name daddy
longlegs is usually used in reference to an arachnid in the
order Opiliones. These long-legged animals are found in dark, damp
places. In Europe they are sometimes referred to as harvestmen because
people most often notice them during harvest time in the newly cut
fields. Although they sometimes prey on insects, they are primarily
scavengers, feeding on different kinds of organic material.
of spiders, the Pholcidae, also sometimes goes by the name daddy
longlegs spider. However, there is no evidence to support the myth
that this real spider has venom that is particularly harmful to
humans. You can get more detailed information about this myth here.
Are brown recluse spiders the most dangerous spider to humans found
not! Colorado is not part of the natural range of this spider. Although
single specimens are sometimes brought into the state, natural populations
are not found in Colorado.
The brown recluse
is the common name for the species Loxosceles reclusa. All
species in the genus Loxosceles have venom that can cause
necrotic lesions in humans. However, as with the majority of spiders,
brown recluse spiders bite humans only when seriously provoked.
Get much more information about the recluse spiders here.
Statement and Question: Brown recluse spiders must be in Colorado
because a doctor said that the nasty wound on the arm/leg/body of
my brother/mother/sister/uncle/friend must have been caused by a
brown recluse and doctors are never wrong, are they?
in Colorado, brown recluse envenomization is the least likely explanation
for the nasty necrotic lesion on the arm of your friend or relative
and the physician in question needs to explore other causes. Whereas
brown recluse bites are very difficult to treat or cure, many of
the other causes of necrotic lesions can be readily treated if they
are properly diagnosed early. Please see the following Web site
for some of the other conditions
that can cause necrotic lesions often mistaken for brown recluse
Is it true that the black widow spider always eats her mate?
Answer: Nope. Black widow females are no more likely than any other
female spider to eat their mates. If the female is ready to mate
and if the male sings the right sweet silk song to her, then she
will allow him to approach and to mate. If the female is not particularly
hungry, she will likely allow the male to leave unscathed after
copulation. However, the female black widow is larger than the male,
as is common in spiders. So, if she is hungry, she may feed on the
male but this is true of many species of spiders.
My friend sent me an e-mail about a really dangerous spider that
lives under toilet seats that can kill you if it bites you. Is this
your mother tell you not to believe everything you read? See the
following Web site for information
on this Internet hoax.
the author of this Web site, and his colleague P. Kirk Visscher
traced the hoax to its originator and published an entertaining
article in the winter 2000 issue of the magazine American Entomologist,
published by the Entomological Society of America, about the hoax
and how quickly it spread across the airwaves.
Why do spiders bite me at night?
they dont. If you wake up with a series of bites on your arms,
legs, neck, and you are certain that you do not have a vampire sleeping
with you, then before blaming the poor spiders, check your bedclothes
for bedbugs. Bedbugs are not a myth. They are flat, secretive insects
that hide in cracks and crevices during the day and come out at
night to suck your blood. The mysterious bites on your body are
far more likely to be caused by mosquitoes, biting flies, bedbugs,
lice, or your pets fleas than by spiders.
Is it true that we will inevitably swallow (some number of) spiders
in our lifetime?
this is not true. Im an arachnologist and Ive never
swallowed a spider.
How many poisonous spiders are there in Colorado?
dont really want to know. Nearly every spider you see is poisonous
because nearly every species of spider on earth has fangs and venom.
What you really meant to ask was how many species of spiders in
Colorado have venom harmful to humans. There are about 37,000 described
species of spiders on earth. Of these only a mere handful have venom
that is of concern to humans.
The most common
species of spider in Colorado with venom that is harmful to humans
is the western black widow spider, Latrodectus hesperus.
This spiders venom is a neurotoxin and can cause excruciating
pain in the limbs, a tightening of the stomach muscles, facial contortions,
sweating, and other unpleasant symptoms.
If you are
ever bitten by a black widow you are unlikely to die but very likely
to wish you were dead. Fortunately, these spiders are very easy
to recognize and are extremely timid and very unlikely to bite.
Antivenin is available in most hospitals and poison control centers.
The antivenin is extremely effective and will eliminate the symptoms
almost immediately. However, many physicians are, for some reason
(perhaps due to the serum in which the antivenin is stored), often
reluctant to administer the antivenin.
found in Colorado that have been accused of causing necrotic lesions
on humans are two species of Miturgidae spiders, Cheiracanthium
mildei and Cheiracanthium inclusum, commonly called the
yellow sac spiders, and an Agelenidae spider, Tegenaria agrestis,
commonly called the hobo spider. The later species was introduced
into the Pacific Northwest from Europe and has been slowly spreading
evidence supporting these three species as the causative agents
of necrotic lesions is extremely weak. At the present, there is
no cause for undue concern about these species.
What should I do if I get bitten by a spider?
you are ever bitten by an arthropod (insect or spider) or stung
by an arthropod such as a bee or an ant and begin to experience
unpleasant symptoms, you should go see your doctor. But do not go
alone. Take the six- or eight-legged suspect with you, even if the
culprit is, by that time, dried up or squashed. It is nearly impossible
to administer an effective treatment against symptoms caused by
an arthropod sting or bite unless 1.) it can be verified that the
wound or symptoms were, indeed, caused by an arthropod, and 2.)
the arthropod can be identified. The treatment for a black widow
bite (antivenin or serious pain killers) is going to be quite a
bit different from the treatment for a jumping spider bite (aspirin
and glass of water and maybe a tranquilizer because you are so paranoid
about a little itty bitty spider).
What is the biggest spider in the world?
largest spider in the world is probably Theraphosa blondi (family
Theraphosidae). This is a big, hairy tarantula that lives in South
America. It is commonly called the bird-eating tarantula because,
although it, like most other spiders, eats mostly insects, it can
take down small vertebrates including birds. The body is about five
inches long with a leg span of about eight to ten inches.
Ive heard that spiders squirt in venom and suck out the liquefied
prey through their fangs. Is this true?
A spider uses its fangs to inject venom into the prey. Once the
spider has created holes in the exoskeleton of the prey, it then
vomits enzymes onto the preys body through its mouth, which
is completely separate from the fangs. The enzymes break down the
inner body of the prey and the insides become liquefied. The spider
then uses its muscular stomach to suck this predigested food into
its body through the mouth. The fangs are used to immobilize the
prey with venom and to create holes in the body of the prey for
the enzymes but are not involved in sucking in the predigested meal.