Studies suggest that at least 6% of the world population are so frightened of them that they can be classified as suffering from arachnophobia. Hollywood loves using them in films when they need to up the scary and creepy factor. Some people love having them as pets while the rest of us generally benefit from having them around as they aid in keeping the insect and pest population under control. Of course, we’re talking about spiders. They are everywhere – outside, in our cars, in our houses and even in our beds. Despite this, the myth that we eat several spiders over our lifetime while sleeping isn’t even remotely close to being right because spiders are not stupid. That said, odds are that while you read this somewhere within several feet of you there is at least one spider - and likely more.
Depending on who you ask, there are around 30,000-40,000 species of spiders in the world. The vast majority of these are harmless to humans. But what about that minority? Yes, there are a relative handful of spider types that are harmful to humans and can even be deadly depending on what specific type we are talking about. In none of these cases is there a type of spider which hunts humans or goes out of its way to attack us. Think of it this way – if a stranger came out of nowhere and grabbed you on the street, what would you do? You probably wouldn’t give them hug. Neither would a spider.
So, keeping in mind that there are no homicidal spiders on earth, what are the most dangerous arachnids around? The following looks at 15 of the more dangerous spider types in the world. Some are on this list because they have a potent venom. Others are here because they are very aggressive and choose to stand and fight rather than run when approached. We’ve got big ones, smalls ones, fuzzy ones and smooth ones – a wide variety of spiders which require extreme caution when dealing with them.
15 Goliath Birdeater Tarantula
With a name like this, surely this type of tarantula is deadly, right? The answer is no. As its name suggests, the Goliath is a very large spider. In fact, these spiders can grow to nearly a foot in diameter. Despite its name, this tarantula tends to eat other insects and maybe the occasional mouse or lizard that comes its way. Like other types of tarantulas, the Goliath does have a venomous bite, but it is not fatal to humans. Where the danger lies is in the hairs on the back of this ‘little’ guy. When scared, the Goliath will rub its back legs on its abdomen and shoot a cloud of tiny bristles into the air. These sharp little barbs can get into your airway and eyes and be extremely uncomfortable for quite some time.
14 Indian Ornamental Tarantula
Yet another tarantula, although this one grows to ‘only’ around a maximum of 7-8 inches. As the name suggests, this specific spider can be found in India, usually in the trees where it hunts its prey. In the pet world, various experts state very clearly that this is not the spider for beginners. In part, this is because they are very defensive and will become aggressive if they feel threatened. Additionally, they are cited as having the most potent venom of all tarantulas with victims of its bite suffering muscle spasms, chests pains and flu-like symptoms for up to days or even weeks after being bitten.
13 King Baboon Tarantula
Like the Indian Ornamental, the King Baboon is another tarantula which beginners are advised not to handle or keep as pets. This is because the King Baboon is noted for being highly aggressive and its venom, while not fatal, can cause pain for several days. This particular spider will rear up and rub its legs together to make a sound when threatened as a final warning to stay away. That said, they won’t go out of their way to bite humans and these 6-8 inch arachnids tend to feast on insects, lizards, mice and small birds. As these live in east Africa, most of us will never see one unless we go to a zoo or have a friend who enjoys unconventional pets.
12 Redback Spider
At first glance this little guy looks a lot like a Black Widow. The female is black and has a red stripe on her back and a red-orange hourglass on her underside. It is not, however, a black widow. The Redback spider is native to Australia but has spread to a few other countries like Japan, New Zealand and Belgium. While it may only have a body that is one centimeter in size, this little guy packs a punch and its bite can be serious for humans. Those who have been bitten experience pain, muscle spasms, vomiting and sweating. Thankfully, like other spiders, this potent little guy doesn’t seek out humans but instead prefers the taste of anything from flies and cockroaches to other spiders and even lizards.
11 Brown Widow
Believed to have originated in Africa or South America, this spider is a cousin of the more famous Black Widow. From Thailand to Australia to the United States, this little spider has been spotted all over the place. Is it something to worry about? Maybe, but not nearly as much as a Black Widow. Unlike its more famous relative, the Brown Widow has a less potent bite. Yes, its neurotoxic venom is as powerful as the Black Widow’s, but this particular spider can’t deliver the same volume of venom. When it does inject the victim, the venom tends to stay localized, rather than spread throughout the limb or body of the person bitten.
10 Hobo Spider
No, this little guy doesn’t ride the trains, eat cans of beans or ask people for spare change. In fact, there is a lot which remains unknown about this particular species of spider and debates over its threat to humans are ongoing. That said, some studies have suggested that most of the bites attributed to Brown Recluses in the United States are actually from Hobo Spiders. This is because it is believed the bite of this particular spider can cause necrosis (breaking down of skin and tissue) although on a lesser scale than that of the Brown Recluse. Other reported symptoms include headaches, tiredness and vision problems.
9 Brown Recluse
Since there is a debate over whether Hobo and Brown Recluse spider bites are being confused, it makes sense to take a look at Brown Recluse next. On average around two centimeters in size, the Brown Recluse is far from being as visually intimidating as one of the tarantulas mentioned above. Nonetheless, this little guy is very dangerous and far more common than you think. Located in the southern and south-eastern United States, these spiders prefer to live in old buildings, woodpiles or any areas which are dry and tend to go undisturbed for long periods. It is not an aggressive spider and its bite is rarely felt or harmful. Most people bitten suffer a variety of symptoms which can include pain, swelling, nausea, fever or rash. That said, studies show that one-third of bites cause some form of necrosis and in rare cases bite victims suffered organ damage or death.
8 Red (Legged) Widow
With a half-inch body and full span of two inches, the Red Widow is, like its other widow family members, a small arachnid. What makes this spider stand out from the other Widows is the bright coloring and patterns found on its legs and body. This particular spider is only found in Florida and is threatened with extinction thanks to expanding populations and developments. There are no documented cases of humans being bitten by one of these spiders, thanks to their limited habitat and rare contact with humans. Nonetheless, lab studies have shown that the venom from these little guys can be just as dangerous as the toxin from the Black Widow.
7 Black Widow
Probably one of the best-known ‘dangerous’ spiders, the Black Widow is known by its black body and red hour-glass shape on the abdomen. The Black Widow is found throughout Mexico, the United States and southern parts of Canada. Pop culture and misinformation have led to the exaggeration of this spider’s deadliness, with many believing its bite inevitably leads to death. In cases involving small children and the elderly, there have been instances of death after a Black Widow bite. Most people, however, actually only experience pain and swelling at the site of the bite. A minority experience more severe symptoms which include chills, nausea, vomiting, cramps and fever – meaning a Black Widow bite has the same potential effect on your body as eating at Arby’s.
6 Mouse Spider
This spider gets its name not because it looks like a mouse, but because it was initially believed to have dug burrows like the rodent. Like many freakish creatures, the Mouse Spider is predominant in Australia, but can be found elsewhere, including South America. They are often confused with Funnel-Web spiders because of a similar appearance. If you get bit by one these, officials urge you seek medical attention immediately as they have been classified as dangerous to humans. Bites can cause severe illness and symptoms similar to those of the Redback spider – another Australian special.
5 Chilean Recluse
Originally a South American spider, the Chilean Recluse can now be found in North America, parts of Europe and, of course, Australia. It is generally considered to be the deadliest of all Recluse spiders. Like its North American cousin, the Brown Recluse, the Chilean prefers undisturbed areas such as sheds and woodpiles. That said, it still comes in contact with humans and bites occur as a result of accidental contact. The Chilean Recluse’s bite is painful, some liken it to a cigarette burn. One in 10 people die from its bite but most suffer severe pain and, occasionally, some form of necrosis which can take months to heal.
4 Northern Funnelweb Spider
Keeping with the theme of why people suffering from arachnophobia shouldn’t visit Australia, we come across the Northern Funnelweb Spider. This is the largest Funnelweb spider in Australia and can be found in Queensland and New South Wales. In an almost Hollywood-esque fashion, these large spiders rear up and expose their fangs (often dripping with venom) when threatened. In the majority of bite cases, the person bitten has shown symptoms of severe poisoning with experts deeming the bite of this spider as potentially deadly. If you’re lucky, the more common symptoms are ‘just’ nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms and pain at the bite site – to name a few.
3 Six-Eyed Sand Spider
This particular arachnid can grow to around five centimeters and lives, as you probably guessed, in deserts and sandy areas in Africa. Like a camel, this particular spider can live a long time without a meal or water – reportedly up to a year. It buries itself in the sand – which is amusing to watch – and waits patiently for prey to come near. When it comes in contact with humans, its bite can be especially bad. This is because the Sand Spider’s venom is a powerful hemolytic-necrotoxic toxin which thins the blood, destroys tissue and causes blood-vessels to rupture. All of this is made even worse by the fact that no anti-venom exists.
2 Sydney Funnelweb Spider
Oh look, another dangerous Australian spider. The Sydney Funnelweb spider lives in a 100km radius around, you guessed it, Sydney, Australia. This spider can have a body up to five centimeters in length, not including legs. Usually, the spider lives outside, in trees, stumps and under rocks. Heavy rainfall can force them to change locations which leads to contact with humans. The Sydney Funnelweb spider will not seek out humans but will become aggressive, rearing up and displaying its fangs when threatened. When it bites, the spider grabs on to bite repeatedly and often has to be flicked or knocked off after becoming attached. The male’s venom is extremely potent and it often delivers a very large dose when biting. Symptoms include sweating, nausea, vomiting, pain, hypotension, circulatory and respiratory failure.
1 Brazilian Wandering Spider
Coming in at #1 is the spider deemed to be the most venomous in the world. It’s located in the tropical regions of Central and South America and (with legs) can grow to around 15cm in size. When threatened, this spider rears up with its two forward pairings of legs high in the air and shows off its fangs. While other spiders rear up in defense as well, the Brazilian Wandering spider will not back down and will challenge anything that gets too close. In addition to a very painful bite, symptoms include swelling, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, cramping, hypothermia and sweating. In severe cases, loss of muscle control, paralysis and asphyxiation have been observed. Interestingly, this particular spider’s bite is known to cause long lasting erections in males, leading researchers to look at the Brazilian Wandering Spider for clues in curing erectile dysfunction.