Most spiders are feared more because they of their creepiness than because of their ability to inflict lasting harm on humans.
Some of the world’s most dangerous spiders are aggressive and will not hesitate to attack humans with little provocation. Most, however, will cower away and avoid conflict unless cornered—like in a shoe as a foot approaches, or in a shirt sleeve as an arm plunges in.
In the United States, about 60 out of 3,000 spider species are thought to have significantly harmed people.
Here’s a look at seven of the most dangerous spiders around the world.
7. Redback Spider, Latrodectus hasselti
Redback spider (Wikimedia Commons)
Location: All across Australia. It has spread via exports from Australia to New Zealand. It’s also been spotted across Southeast Asia and Japan.
Body size: Females 0.4 inches (1 centimeter), males 0.1 inches (3 to 4 millimeters)
About 250 people receive antivenom for redback bites each year. About 80 percent of bites have little to no effect, and most of the other 20 percent are painful for about a day but are not serious. The rare serious cases can include symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, headache, vomiting, and insomnia.
No fatalities have been recorded since an antivenom was introduced in the 1950s.
Redbacks don’t stray far from their webs, and most bites have occurred when people came into direct contact with the webs.
6. Sydney Funnel-Web Spider, Atrax robustus
Sydney funnel-web spider. (Shutterstock)
Location: Within a 100-mile (160-kilometer) radius of Sydney, Australia. Other species of funnel-web spiders are found throughout Australia.
Body size: Females 1.4 inches (3.5 centimeters), males 1 inch (2.5 centimeters)
Although the Sydney funnel-web spider has not killed anyone since an antivenom was introduced in 1981, it remains “an icon of fear and fascination for Sydneysiders,” according to the Australian Museum. The spider has caused more than 13 recorded deaths.
The fibers from its web are used in making optical instruments.
These spiders live beneath rocks and logs in forests and also in compost heaps or in the soil beneath houses. They prefer moist, earthy territory.
5. Six-Eyed Sand Spider, Sicarius hahni
A mature female six-eyed sand spider on the coast of Namibia. (Jon Richfield/Wikimedia Commons)
Location: South Africa
Body size: 0.5 inches (1.5 centimeters)
Size including legs: Up to 2 inches (5 centimeters)
This spider is unique in its ability to camouflage. It not only buries itself in the sand, but even above ground it looks like sand—until you see its crab-like legs scurrying. It has an exoskeleton with bristly hair-like structures that trap sand so the spider is coated in sand at all times.
It rarely bites humans, but its venom is powerful, able to kill a rabbit in a few hours. There are no recorded human fatalities from its bite. Its venom causes blood vessels to leak, tissues to break down, and eventually organ failure.
4. Brown Widow, Latrodectus geometricus
A brown widow spider in Los Angeles, Calif. (Matthew Field)
Location: Southern United States
Body size: Females 0.5 inches (1.5 centimeters), males 0.2 inches (6 millimeters)
Size including legs: Females 1.5 inches (4 centimeters), males 0.5 inches (1.25 centimeters)
The brown widow has venom twice as potent as its sister, the black widow. The brown widow does not inject as much venom, however, when it bites. It is a timid spider, and it sticks to secluded, protected areas. Brown widows have been found in outdoor garbage cans, under eaves, in mailboxes, in cluttered garages, under outdoor chairs, and other such places.
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