When three Bolivian kids found themselves face to face with a black widow spider, they let their imaginations get the better of them. Instead of giving the dangerous spider plenty of space, the brothers each allowed it to bite them in hopes that they’d become superheroes, like Spider-Man. Alarmingly, their parents had to take them to the hospital for emergency treatment for the potentially deadly venom.
The three unnamed brothers, aged 12, 10, and 8, from the town of Chayant in Potosi, Bolivia, were out grazing goats, while their mom was collecting firewood, when they came across the black widow in May 2020. What happened next was relayed by the Bolivian’s Ministry of Health’s chief of epidemiology Virgilio Pietro, as reported by Telemundo.
Pietro wanted to share the incident as a warning for parents to be careful, because “for children everything is real, movies are real, dreams can be real, and they are the illusion of our lifetime,” he said.
According to the chief of epidemiology, when the siblings saw the black spider, it reminded them of the well-known Marvel film portraying the comic book character Spider-Man.
In the Marvel Universe, Peter Parker first gains his superpowers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Among the superpowers the character is imbued with are ability to climb walls, superhuman strength, and being able to shoot webs that let him swing from building to building across the New York City skyline. It’s not hard to see how kids may find all that appealing.
In an attempt to reenact the comic book character’s original story, the kids decided to experiment with the black widow by prodding it with a stick, first the older child, then the 10-year-old; and finally, the two brothers helped their younger sibling to also get bitten.
Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long before the real effects of the venom started taking effect on the three kids. Pietro said it only took a few minutes before their mom noticed the symptoms and rushed them to a health center in Chayanta. The young ones were presenting frightful signs of fever, convulsions, and muscle pains.
Unfortunately, the treatment there didn’t prove effective, so the boys were rushed to another hospital in Llallagua, where health professionals realized how serious the situation was. The three kids ended up at Children’s Hospital in La Paz. Luckily, they received anti-venom serum and finally began showing signs of improvement before they were sent home on May 20, hopefully, with a serious lesson well learned.
The black widow is scientifically known as latrodectus, and its venom is more potent than that of rattlesnakes, though rarely deadly when treated in time, according to National Geographic. Despite their infamy and scary name, these little eight-legged creatures are usually not aggressive, and most bites happen accidentally or, in this case, in response to children with overactive imaginations.
According to Telemundo, arachnid bites in the country of Bolivia are relatively rare. And the deadliest local invertebrate isn’t the black widow at all but the funnel-web spider, whose bite can actually bring death to its victims within 15 minutes. Definitely keep your distance!