Author: Martin Overton
Time after time the question of "how dangerous
are tarantulas and other spiders" raises its head.
Before I answer this, the following needs to be
Lets address tarantulas first as this is the spiders that most of us are concerned about as we are in frequent contact with them, whether is be direct contact through handling (not advised!) or through indirect contact from bombardment or urticating hairs from substrate, etc.
To date there have been no substantiated deaths attributed to a bite from a tarantula. This said though, there have been concerns that certain old-world species; such as Poecilotheria may have high venom potential. The same goes for a number of Australian species. Of course the reaction of one individual to a particular species venom cannot be used as a reliable measure. We need a suitable cross section of individuals that have been bitten to make a sound general statement as to the effect of being bitten by a particular species.
Concerns have also been raised regarding urticating hairs and the possible damage they may cause. Suggestions include, partial or total blindness, cataracts, breathing problems (burning nose, throat, etc.) and severe urticaria that may re-occur years after the original bombardment.
Of course the documented proof for many of the above is lacking, or merely resides in the imagination of the media who 'smell a good story'.
To try and resolve the lack of documented proof on bites and bombardment from tarantulas I have created a survey on my web site. (at http://arachnophiliac.com)
The purpose of this survey is to get first hand feedback from individuals that have suffered an attack. The results from this survey will be used to write a paper for publication in the BTS journal (and any other societies that are interested, both arachnid and medical) and also to be used in the on-line species database I'm setting up.
Other spiders that have been documented as being of medical importance (unlike tarantulas) are:
Black Widow Spiders (Latrodectus sp.)
The most frequently encountered of this species are: L.
mactans and L. hesperus.
Brown Spiders (Loxosceles sp.)
One interesting side note is that problems from bites of this spider, could be compounded by Streptococcal infection that lead to gangrenous limbs that require surgical amputation.
Brazilian Wandering Spiders (Phoneutria
Funnel Web Spiders (Atraxus sp.)
I would welcome your feedback on this short article. I believe that this could easily be expanded into a full article for one of the society journals (any society interested?)