Image Credit: Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images
One of the things that makes spiders so scary is the way they eat. Most spiders inject enzymes into their prey, which then liquefies said prey from the inside out, allowing spiders to suck goo. Lucky for humans, they’re too big for a spider to liquefy. However, in a few cases, a spider’s venom is strong enough to kill you.
5 Brown Recluse
As their name implies, the brown recluse wants you to leave it alone. That’s why they seek out dark places to hide. When that dark place is your shoe or under the covers of your bed, you might surprise one into biting. Brown recluses dwell in the Midwestern, south central and southwestern U.S. You can recognize them by the violin-shaped markings on their carapace, which gives them the nickname fiddleback, or by that bluish patch on your leg that is quickly expanding to a gaping ulcer as the venom continues to destroy your tissue. Children and the elderly are most likely to have severe reactions. While a few cases of death by brown recluse have been reported, these haven’t been reliably confirmed. However, this spider is definitely deadly to your healthy living tissue.
4 Black Widow
You can’t be called something much scarier than “black widow,” a name that’s practically synonymous with death. These spiders only bite in self-defense, but when they do, you’re facing venom that’s 15 times as strong as a rattlesnake’s. Black widows live around the world and are easily identified by the hourglass on their abdomens. In the 1950s, black widows killed 63 Americans, mostly near outhouses and woodpiles. Deaths are rare since antivenin was developed. Young children are the most likely to perish from black widow bites.
3 Redback Spider
The redback spider is clearly marked by a red stripe on its black back, so if you see one, don’t reach into its web and tempt its small fangs to sink into you. That’s about the only way you’re likely to be bitten, since these spiders are homebodies who usually stay in their webs. Still, more than 250 Australians seek antivenin for redback bites every year. The painful bites cause sweating, nausea and muscle weakness, and without antivenin, death can result. Redbacks live in many parts of the world.
2 Brazilian Wandering Spider
If you see a spider waving several legs at you from the middle of a bunch of bananas, stand back. A Brazilian wandering spider, a.k.a. a banana spider, might have hitched a ride into your kitchen. The bite of this extremely venomous little guy floods your body with neurotoxins, leading to paralysis and asphyxiation. It’s almost enough to make you stick to apples. Men who are bitten will sport a persistent and painful erection. Scientists are now trying to develop new drugs for erectile dysfunction from the wandering spider’s toxins. Early studies have demonstrated success with rodents, which leaves you with two memorable images: deadly spiders in your bananas and rats with erections.
1 Funnel-Web Spider
These Aussie natives come in 40 species, ranging for 1 to 5 centimeters long. The most deadly is the male Sydney funnel-web spider, which can probably take credit for all recorded funnel web spider deaths and a number of near misses. Humans have prevailed since 1981, when antivenin became available. All funnel spiders are shiny with spiny lower lips, four spinnerets and close-together eyes. The Sydney funnel-web spider sports a spur on the underside of its second leg. But once you get close enough to see this detail, it might be too late. This spider’s venom can kill you in less than two hours.