It’s probably in your bananas. Right now. (And that is not an innuendo)

Posted: November 1, 2012 in Arthropods

A friend of mine has arachnophobia, and so of course I spend lots and lots of time looking up obscure but unpleasant spiders of the world to post to her Facebook page. Because I care (and because you’re a dangerous maniac. Ed.)

Anyway, one of my best ever posts was about the Brazilian Wandering Spider, and by the end of this I hope you will understand why. If you think it is because it is the one species of spider on the planet that is not the incarnation of all that is unholy on eight legs, you are incredibly naive, and probably emailing your bank account details to a prince in Nigeria in response to his ‘totally legit bank survey’ email as we speak. (Protip: do not expect to ever see that $456,000,000,000 he is offering. Banks have never simply given money to someone they know nothing about).

No, the reason why the Brazilian Wandering was a good choice is because, quite simply, it is Evil. And here’s why.

Firstly, the Greek name of the genera, Phoneutria, means murderess in Greek, which straight off the bat is hardly a good sign. As a rule, scientists are sober (please, we’ve all seen the pictures. Ed.) and collected people, so if they name something murderess , you know it is going to be bad. Though I admit they are been a bit callous by only warning people about this spider in Greek, but then frankly if you can’t speak Greek I guess you really don’t deserve to know which spiders can kill you horribly. The genus comprises eight species, which top specialists say is nine species too many, and can be as large as five inches across.

Anyhow, this spider has perhaps the most toxic venom of any spider studied so far. For example you need 110 μg (micrograms)  of poison injected into the veins of a 20g mouse to kill it, assuming that poison came from a Black Widow spider.Considering that a microgram is one millionth of a gram, that’s not a lot of poison. Well, the Wandering Spider venom can kill the same mouse using only 6 μg.

Six. Millionths. Of. A. Gram.

So, how does this poison work? It contains several components, the most lethal being the neurotoxin PhTx3. This works by, basically, ‘blocking’ synapses, the connections between nerves. It does this by blocking calcium channels, which stops the release of neurotransmitters (chemicals that diffuse across synapses) . Basically, it takes a great big pair of pliers to the wiring of your body, leading to a loss of muscle control, difficulty breathing, paralysis and eventual death. In addition, the venom also causes intense pain around the site of the wound. Finally, to add insult to injury, it causes priapism – or, in common parlance, an errection that lasts for four hours or more. Before anyone gets any ideas and rushes off to the Brazilian rain forest to solve their long running relationship problems, it should be noted that this is a) intensely painful, b) is classified as a medical emergency, c) can lead to impotence and d), most alarmingly, is often best treated by basically cutting into the penis and letting the blood out. Yet more proof, as if any were needed, that this spider is indeed the distillation of pure Evil. Not only will it kill you, but kill you in a way that will amuse the more mentally backward members of society.

But don’t worry, this spider is only found in Brazil. Obviously, this is bad news for the Brazilians, especially given that the spider likes to crawl into dark, quiet spaces. Like, you know, the insides of clothes, bed sheets, boots, cupboards and…well, you get the idea. Imagine every single corner of your home may harbour a spider, able to kill you and humiliate your corpse, and then marvel at the courage of the Brazilian people for not emigrating to, literally, anywhere else.

But then again, perhaps they know that there is no escape. For example, in 2005 one hitched a ride on some bananas and ended up in England, where it bit a man who was unloading the bananas.

In all honesty, though, there is little need to worry. There is, at most, an 80% chance one came to your country, on a shipment of fruit, and somehow found its way into your house, into some dark, warm, quiet corner where you won’t notice it until it is too late…

However, on the plus side, one component of its venom is being studied as a potential cure for erectile dysfunction. Because if there’s one thing that really gets the ladies in the mood, it is knowing that you are taking a drug based on the venom of a lethal spider. So romantic…

Evil on eight legs.

There is a list of things that make me uncertain of someone’s sanity. Having THIS FUCKING SPIDER crawl about on your arm without immediately brushing it off is no.1. (From Wikimedia Commons)



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