The Brazilian Wandering Spider is the name given to any number of spider species that belong to the Phoneutria genus. Large, intimidating, and infamous for having the most toxic spider venom in the world, these spiders actually occur in many areas outside of Brazil, including the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica south to northern Argentina. Nevertheless, the Brazilian Wandering Spider (Phoneutria nigriventer) is the most well known member of this group of eight species due to its tendency to live near human habitations and occasionally bite people. It gets its name from being a familiar spider in many parts of Brazil as well as its behavior of actively searching for prey rather than lying in wait at a spider web.
Although the Brazilian Wandering Spider doesn’t actually occur in the Tambopata rainforest, there are at least two other closely related species that live in the Peruvian jungle that surrounds the Rainforest Expeditions lodges. However, despite the hype that the Brazilian Wandering Spider has received from the press, this creature rarely bites people and the species in the Tambopata rainforest do their best to stay hidden at all times. As with most other small creatures that make their home in the Amazon rainforest, the wandering spiders of Tambopata are preyed upon by everything from large birds to peccaries and would much rather hide in the leaf litter than rush out and bite someone.
Although guests of Posada Amazonas, Refugio Amazonas, and the Tambopata Research Center may encounter wandering spiders on hikes in the rainforest, they are more likely to see one on a night hike as it searches for prey on the forest floor. Getting bit by one is extremely unlikely unless you try to pick the spider up or stick your hands into leaf litter, bromeliads, or under fallen logs (ill-advised as scorpions, snakes, and other venomous animals also hide in such places).
A few interesting facts about the Brazilian Wandering Spider:
- Most toxic spider venom known: The venom of at least one species of Phoneutria is much more toxic than the Black Widow Spider and can easily kill mice with one bite. Human fatalities have also occurred in Brazil although this is an extremely rare occurrence.
- No web: Unlike many other spiders, the wandering spiders don’t build webs but actively search for their prey.
- The banana spider: Wandering spiders are also known as the Banana Spider as they have occasionally turned up in shipments of bananas! One such stowaway actually bit a man in England in 2005. He survived but spent a week in the hospital!
- Understory predator: These spiders are active, aggressive predators that feed on large insects, small lizards, mice, and frogs that they find in the understory of the rainforest.
How to see Brazilian Wandering Spider when taking an Amazon adventure tour:
- Go on a night hike: Since these large spiders are most active at night, a night hike in the rainforest with one of the trained Rainforest Expeditions guides may result in sightings of wandering spiders.
To see wandering spiders and other creatures of the wild Peruvian Amazon in action, take a jungle adventure tour with Rainforest Expeditions!