“Banana spiders” have a reputation for appearing in boxes of bananas and producing a nasty bite. But, what exactly is a banana spider, and is it really dangerous?
Read on to find more about some of the different spiders people call banana spiders and whether you need to worry about their bites.
Also, learn how to recognize a bite from these spiders and what to do if you have a spider bite.
Most spiders will bite if they feel threatened, but the venom they produce isn’t usually dangerous enough to cause severe harm. This is true for most spiders that people call a banana spider.
One type of banana spider, the Brazilian wandering spider, can cause severe symptoms, but this is rare. This type of spider doesn’t usually appear in the United States.
A bite from any type of banana spider may be uncomfortable, but it’s not as harmful as bites from other spiders, such as the black widow spider.
In most cases, a banana spider bite isn’t more painful than a bee sting and doesn’t cause any further symptoms.
Different types of spiders are called banana spider, but they aren’t all related. They can all bite, but their bites don’t usually cause severe harm.
Golden silk orb-weaver
Also called a calico spider, a writing spider, or a golden orb spider, this type is also called a banana spider because of the shape of its body. Its scientific name is Trichonephila clavipes, and it’s from the Nephila family of spiders. The giant wood spider is also from this family.
It can bite when under threat, but its venom isn’t poisonous to humans. It’s considered relatively harmless. Males are usually around 0.25 inches (6 mm) in length, but females can grow to up to 3 inches (75 mm).
In color, they are orange, yellow, black, brown, and white. In the United States, they’re predominantly found in the southeast. They like areas of high humidity and open space. You can find them in forest areas along trails and clearing edges
The name Nephila is Greek for “fond of spinning.” A golden silk orb-weaver can weave webs up to 3 feet across. The silk they use to spin these webs is very strong.
In fact, according to a study published in
Red-faced banana spider and other Cupiennius
People sometimes find Cupiennius spiders in shipments of bananas. According to a 2014 study, scientists received reports of 10 red-faced banana spiders arriving in international cargo over a 5-year period.
Types of Cupiennius include:
- Cupiennius chiapenensis. People sometimes call these red-faced banana spiders because they have two appendages in front of their mouth that are covered in bright red hairs.
- Cupiennius getazi. These have black dots on a white background on the underside of their legs and body.
- Cupiennius coccineus. These have bright red hairs under their legs, near their body.
Depending on the type, medium-sized males of these species can measure around 0.5 inches (12 to 14 mm) and females 0.5 to 0.7 inches (12 to 20 mm). However, larger males can reach just 1 inch (26 mm) in length, and females around 1.5 inches (38 mm).
These spiders have a reputation for being aggressive and highly toxic, but a 2014 article notes that this is unlikely.
Brazilian wandering spider
People often confuse Cupiennius spiders with another, more dangerous type of spider, the Brazilian wandering spider, of the Phoneutria family. They include P. fera and P. nigriventer.
This spider is also known as the banana spider because people have occasionally found it in shipments of bananas. Other names include the armed spider and the huntsman spider.
However, these spiders tend to live in areas of Brazil where interaction with humans is limited. They also live away from areas of commercial banana production for the export market, making them highly unlikely to appear outside of Brazil in banana shipments. From 1926 to 2009, there were only seven reports of Phoneutria spiders in banana shipments globally.
The Brazilian wandering spider can reach 2 inches (50 mm) in body length, and its venom can be harmful to humans. However, it’s rarely deadly for humans, except for those younger than 10 and older than 70.
According to a 2018 study, around 4,000 people are bitten by this type of spider every year, but fewer than half a percent of these bites are severe. Fewer than 3 percent of people need antivenom following a bite, and it’s usually enough just to treat the symptoms. Since 1903, 15 deaths reported in Brazil may have been due to a bite from this spider, but only two were confirmed.
Hawaiian garden spider
Also known as an orb-weaving spider, and locally as a banana spider, females have yellow markings and can grow up to 2.36 inches or 60 mm in length. Males are less colorful and can be four times smaller than a female. Their Latin name is Argiope appensa.
These spiders occur in various Pacific Islands, including Hawaii and Guam. They are not poisonous to humans and can be useful as a natural form of pest control in the garden.
A bite from a banana spider will depend on the type of spider.
In most cases, a spider bite will lead to:
- redness on light skin tones and purplish appearance on darker skin
- pain at the bite area
Research suggests that a bite from a Cupiennius spider will usually lead to “minimal symptom development.”
One person who had a bite from a Cupiennius coccineus spider said they felt an intense, bee sting-like pain as the fangs penetrated, followed by pain and numbness for 10 minutes.
After 30 minutes, symptoms are usually gone.
Golden silk orb-weaver bite
This spider will only bite if you hold or pinch it, and the bite is not likely to be dangerous. You may feel pain and notice redness where the spider bites you, but these usually disappear quite quickly.
The pain is typically less than a bee sting would cause.
A Brazilian wandering spider bite
A bite from a Brazilian wandering spider can lead to:
- pain near the bite
- radiating pain
- burning, prickling, or numbness
- shock and fluid on the lungs, in rare cases
In more severe cases, there may be:
- high blood pressure
- a rapid heartbeat
- cyanosis due to a lack of oxygen
- priapism, an erection that doesn’t go away.
Cyanosis can cause pale skin to appear blue. On darker skin, a blue tinge may be visible in the lips, gums, tongue, and skin under the nails.
The bite of other types of Phoneutria are less venemous. The bite of a Phoneutria boliviensis spider can cause pain that lasts 24 hours but no other symptoms.
Hawaiian garden spider bite
A bite from this type of spider is unlikely to be dangerous to humans.
A bite from any spider can sometimes trigger an allergic reaction.
This could lead to:
- breathing problems
If you or a person you know is experiencing these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. It can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening emergency.
You should seek medical help if you have a spider bite and:
- develop severe symptoms
- have signs of an allergic reaction
- are unsure about the bite or concerned that a bite may be dangerous
- have symptoms that persist or worsen over time instead of getting better
If possible, take a photo of the spider to show a medical professional.
However, the chances are that it’s not dangerous. If a healthcare professional doesn’t provide an antivenom, they may consider the treatment more dangerous than the bite.
In most cases, you can take the following steps to treat a banana spider’s bite at home:
- Apply a cloth-covered ice pack to the bite for 10 minutes at a time. This will help reduce stinging and swelling.
- Keep the bite area clean by washing it with soap and lukewarm water.
- If the area starts to blister, you can apply an antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection.
- Apply a corticosteroid or antihistamine cream to alleviate itching. You can also take antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) to lessen your symptoms.
- Apply aloe vera gel to irritated skin. You can use gel straight from an aloe vera plant in your home or purchase the gel over the counter.
If the bite’s appearance doesn’t improve in a few days, talk with a healthcare professional.
If you find a golden orb-weaver or Hawaiian banana spider in your yard, there are several reasons to appreciate them. They prey on small- to medium-sized pests that can be troublesome, including mosquitoes.
Golden orb-weaver spiders also make ultra-strong silk that
While researchers haven’t yet figured out how to harness the power of this silk for large-scale use, they’re continuing to study this spider and its web.
There are different types of banana spiders. Some take their name from the shape or color of their body, while others are called banana spiders because they appear occasionally in shipments of bananas and other fruit.
Most banana spiders are not dangerous to humans. The Brazilian wandering spider is more venemous than others, but it rarely appears in international shipments.
Spiders typically don’t bite humans unless held or threatened. A bite from any type of banana spider may cause pain or irritation, but it’s not usually deadly.