Spiders creep us out, and arachnophobia is a common yet misplaced fear. Spiders contribute to the natural cycle of things. Having lived in the tropics, I’ve seen spiders big enough to leash.
Banana spiders get mislabeled. Several species, like the Golden Silk Orb Weaver, Hawaiian Garden Spider, Brazilian Wandering Spider, and Red-Faced Banana Spider, get lumped under the Banana Spider moniker.
Here, I’ll outline everything you need to know about what banana spiders eat, where they live, and if a banana spider’s venomous bite hurts more than a bee sting.
The media has often perpetuated misconceptions about spiders, portraying them as inherently harmful creatures, which has led to unnecessary fear and misunderstanding among the public.
World Animal Foundation actively provides educational resources and information about spiders and estimated that there are around 49,000 known spider species. Not all spiders are venomous. Most spider species are harmless to humans and play important roles in controlling insect populations.
This post isn’t to spread hysteria but to help identify these critters called banana spiders. Most banana spiders will never harm you.
Banana spiders have unique distinguishing markers and belong to the class of Arachnida, Araneidae family, and Nephila genus. Spiders contributed to the animal and plant kingdom for 400 million years.
The banana spiders are usually brown, yellow, red, black, and green, and a mix of each with an exoskeleton skin type. It’s their set of 8 legs and 8 sets of eyes that freaks us out.
Banana spiders live in Oceania, North America, Africa, Asia, Central and South America. Sometimes, they get packed in banana shipments and arrive in our supermarkets mistakenly. It’s when they make the news.
Spider species eat a big mix of flies, moths, mosquitoes, beetles, grasshoppers, butterflies, and small lizards and frogs. Some banana spiders hunt, weaving spiders package their prey in silk and store it for rainy days.
Banana spider includes at least five species; there isn’t one scientific name other than the umbrella Araneidae.
- Cupiennius is a Central and South American genus
- Phoneutria or Brazilian wander spider
- Nephila for Golden Silk Orb Weaver
- Argiope appensa is a genus of Western Pacific Islands
- Tricho-nephila clavipes is a genus common in North and South America
Types of Banana Spider
Banana spider isn’t a specific spider genus or type. It’s a moniker that applies to numerous beneficial and sometimes dangerous spiders.
Golden Silk Orb-weaver
These harmless spiders, also called giant wood spider, calico spider, and writing spider, weave stunning webs in warmer tropical regions worldwide.
The golden silk orb weaver spiders are of the Nephila clavipes genus, which means love to weave.
Golden orb weaver spiders measure 1.5 to 2 inches. Females have distinct color markings, and their legs have stripes. Males are smaller and brown.
Brazilian Wandering Spider
Phoneutria is Latin for murderess and makes this banana spider notorious and perhaps gives all other banana spiders a bad reputation. The Armed spiders or huntsman spiders have a venomous bite that releases a neurotoxic venom, though fatalities are uncommon.
The Brazilian wandering spider lives in the tropics of Central and South America and has a massive 5.1 to 7.1-inch leg span and bodies of up to 2 inches. It’s mostly brown with distinct and colorful leg markings. It’s so big it consumes lizards, bats, frogs, and insects by hunting without a net.
Brazilian wandering spiders are in the Guinness Book of World Records for most venomous, and the banana spider most dangerous representative.
Did you know pineapples are a bromeliad? Cupiennius or Tiger bromeliad spider is another spider mistakenly called a banana spider. It’s another large hunting spider from the Trechaleidae family.
The Tiger spider’s claim to fame is that its venom is the most studied. A bite to humans may be painful but not dangerous. They look similar to Brazilan spiders and add to the confusion of mislabeling them.
Red-faced Banana Spider and other Cupiennius
Spiders get mixed up, and the Red-faced banana spider is from the Cupiennius genus, too. It has a mildly venomous bite similar on a pain scale to a bee sting.
It’s common in South and Central America and is smaller with an up to 1.6-inch body. To identify it, look for bright red hairs. It’s similar to phoneutria spiders.
Hawaiian Garden Spider
Arigope appensa, or Hawaiian orb-weaving spider or banana spider, is harmless. Its territory includes New Caledonia, Hawaii, Australia, Taiwan, New Guinea and Indonesia.
The orb weaver measures up to 2.5 inches, including leg span. This female banana spider is larger, and yellow and black markings resemble a crown. Males are small and brown. They weave zig-zag patterns into the web.
Banana Spider Facts
Spiders and all types of banana spiders are beneficial to the environment. They help balance the ecosystem in our gardens, agriculture, and inside our homes. They spin webs or hunt and capture pests like roaches, moths, earwigs, and mosquitos. Larger spiders consume lizards and frogs too.
Spiders help prevent the spread of diseases and promote better farmland crops.
- There are at least 5 spider genera grouped into the banana spider family
- Spiders live from a few weeks up to a year
- Spider give birth to 300 to 3000 hatchlings
- They’re carnivores
- Birds and damselflies are natural predators
- They have 8 legs and 8 eyes
- Spider silk is used for garments and fishing nets
Is the Bite of a Banana Spider Venomous?
The Brazillian Wandering Spider has a venomous bite, as does the Bromeliad or Tiger Spider. These spiders release a neurotoxin that can be painful and potentially life-threatening, though death is rare. Children, elderly, and immuno-compromised people are more vulnerable.
Most spiders classed in the banana spider group are not venomous, specifically to humans. They may release a venom that kills their prey, though swelling and irritation are symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of a Banana Spider Bite
Most banana spider bites are only mildly painful and depend on the type of banana spider.
People may experience these symptoms:
- Redness or purplish tinge
- Mild to acute pain at the site
- Skin blistering
- Minor discomfort
Everyone experiences pain and banana spider bites from Cupiennius spiders differently, and many report discomfort similar to a bee sting. The symptoms last for ten minutes and dissipate completely after half an hour.
Bites from a Brazillian or Tiger spider are severe and warrant medical intervention.
Symptoms of Golden Silk Orb-weaver Bite
Golden silk orb spiders leave a small pinch or bite mark with little pain and a lesion of inflammation and redness.
In rare cases, susceptible persons can experience nausea or dizzy spells.
Symptoms of Hawaiian Garden Spider Bite
These docile banana spiders only bite under threat, and their venom isn’t dangerous. Symptoms produce mild pain, numbness, and skin swelling. Although rare, a person may feel spells of nausea and dizziness.
If symptoms worsen, call your doctor for treatment advice.
Symptoms of Brazilian Wandering Spider Bite
Brazilian spider bites can be dangerous, but only 2% of victims require antivenom. However, the severity of these venomous bites is laced with intense pain.
Symptoms include increases in blood pressure and respiratory difficulty, intense burning pain at the bite mark, and potentially spread. The toxicity can affect muscle tissue, induce tremors, convulsions, slurred speech, and prolonged erections.
Abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea are common Brazilian spider bites can be dangerous, but only 2% of victims require antivenom effects.
Treatment of Banana Spider Bite
Regardless of the type of banana spider bite you’re treating, apply a cold compress, antibiotic ointments, and take antihistamines.
However, the Brazilian Wandering Spider bite requires medical attention.
For all spider bites:
- Stay calm to avoid spreading the toxins
- Elevate the affected bite area
- Applying a cold compress alleviates pain and reduces inflammation
- If in doubt, consult a medical professional.
Importance of Banana Spider
Spiders are beneficial to every ecosystem. Spiders feed on insects and, therefore, balance populations that may damage crops. They’re also an important food source for birds and other insects.
Banana Spiders play a major role in every ecosystem on Earth. They might not be pretty, but some produce amazing silk and protect the environment from invasive pests.
Further, positive studies suggest that spider venom may help treat heart arrhythmia, epilepsy, cancer, drug delivery, and other health conditions.
Other Spider Guides by Planet Natural:
Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa's work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.