PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: THE STORY OF BANANA SPIDERS

BEHIND THE SPIDER MYTH

For many people who have arachnophobia, being stuck somewhere in the deep rainforest is a right nightmare, keeping in mind possibility to be surrounded with spiders all the time. Those spiders could be small, medium or the big one and their nature goes from harmless to venomous. You never know what you will face with in the darkness of the tropical jungles but you sincerely hope it wont be any kind of banana spider.

I experienced the real fear from unknown spiders, being myself an explorer in the some of the rainforest pearls of Costa Rica. It is a fact that I don’t have any pathological fear from spiders but at the same time, I don’t like being targeted with the creatures that I don’t know much about, especially if they use to be marked as aggressive and dangerous. The local people in Costa Rica warned me to be aware of banana spiders when I am outdoor since they are the significant problem for all of human beings that are active in the different areas of vegetation. Not to mention that banana spiders are causing stress and obstacles for workers on banana farms so it has been reported that some have been even hurt and barely rescued. To be sure to track the scientific information and not urban legends, I would like to get into the real story about our banana spiders, so we will be able to know how to act and react once when we meet them, accidentally.

The common banana spiders are actually known as golden orb weaver spiders ( Nephila) and indeed they belong to the family of large spiders. Nevertheless, there are many groups of banana spiders, depending on where we are located and that type of nature those spiders have. In the USA, this orb weaver is called a banana spider but it is definitely different than the one in the Latin America. The American banana spiders are those that live mostly in the warmer climate zones across America and their bite is not deadly.

The second category is, we could say, real banana spiders family – Cupiennius or red-faced banana spider. We all know what is happening when some of those little critters is travelling to our part of the world on some of the banana deliveries. They have very mild venom, for humans but they are very active hunters that are mostly located on banana plants, patiently waiting for a prey. There are many subcategories of them, based on the origin but their geo strategical position is in Central and South America. They do look similar to fatal Brazilian banana spiders, but not so devastating.

The Hawaiian garden spider( Argiope appensa) is the next banana spider group that are not dangerous at all and they do not bother but do the important role in our ecosystem, taking care of tiny insects population control.

Then, the fourth place belongs to the family of Golden silk-orb weaver or Trichonephila clavipes that is absolutely friendly with rough image. They live really peacefully and do not want any kind of conflict with humans and even if happens, it is not causing any serious problem.

The last but the most important family is very well known Brazilian wandering spider ( Phoneutria). This armed spider is the one that has the extremely dangerous venom that could make problems for people who are allergic and for young children. Fortunately, those creatures are really shy and they do not enjoy being encountering with people so they try to avoid them. It is very rare situation to meet this buddy and to experience its venom. They wont attack if they don’t feel themselves endangered and even in that case, they release so called dry bite, since they do not want to waste their venom for something that is not food. I read so many funny articles about those Brazilian banana spiders that you would ask yourself if you are reading science fiction. The only known fact is that people love exaggeration of any kind. One heard something and the next 10 added the salt and pepper to the basic tale. At the end of the day, our Brazilian banana spiders are something like aliens that sleep in bananas and wait to attack our homes, when we purchase bananas in the local grocery store. I find such act of reporting irresponsible and against the common sense. If we do some digging behind the scene, we will learn that none of these spiders lays its eggs in flowers. The spider expert tried to explain the development:“Flowers change so fast that they would be poor places for eggs. Huntsman spiders guard their egg sacs in a leaf nest, as shown. Many other species found on banana plants do much the same. On rare occasions some spider may place an egg sac on the outside of an already-grown banana. Such an object would be hard for even the hungriest consumer to miss. (In March 2015, a panicked banana-buyer in Wales misidentified just such an egg sac, harmless of course, as ´the world’s deadliest spider,´ setting off another foolish media feeding frenzy).There is simply no chance for spider eggs to get into a banana. Nor would a species that did this survive long, since spiderlings in an uneaten banana could never escape. Not that eating spider eggs would cause any harm even if this fantasy were true!

I am amazed that such amount of misinformation is flying around the web, offering discomfort to those who are hungry for tabloid news. Yes, there are banana spiders that could be transported on some of imported banana shipments but there are definitely not those kings and queens of Amazon spider universe. They live so far away from all known banana farms and they even have no chance to reach it. The another species are using banana plants for themselves but they are not risk at all. I was talking myself to some of Costaricans about banana spiders and they are informing that there have been cases about badly reaction on spider bite but if you are allergic, you can react bad on all.

The nature deserves respect and we as humans, must learn to recognise our boundaries and place in this ecosystem, if we want to build cohabitation with all other species. Every single animal, invisible, tiny, small or big has an amazing purpose to keep this Earth running and living. Once, when that process is ruined by lack of knowledge and empathy, we will face up with global failure and extinction. Please, before jump into concussions, spreading myths and legends, try to learn and understand, try to inform and bring awareness. That is the only way through the world full of natural miracles.

Leave spiders alone.

One thought on “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: THE STORY OF BANANA SPIDERS

  1. Sarah’s intriguing and informative article reminded me of how cribellate spiders (i.e. spiders who spin webs) keep from being caught in their own webs: the spiders have a non-stick comb on their back legs which keeps them free from the microscopic nanofibers of the sticky threads.

    Unlike most spiders, which produce silk coated in a sticky glue, cribellate spiders’ threads resemble a bristly wool that embeds into the bodies of their prey. During web-making, the spider’s comb, or calamistrum, grabs onto the nanofibers emerging from its abdomen and assembles them into threads.

    Spider webs have existed for at least 100 million years, as witnessed in a rare find of Early Cretaceous Period amber from Sussex, southern England. Many spiders build webs specifically to catch insects to eat. Yet, not all spiders catch their prey in webs, and some do not build webs at all.

    Wandering spiders (i.e. species of the Banana spiders) are so-called because they wander the jungle floor at night, rather than residing in a lair or maintaining a web. During the day, they hide inside termite mounds, under fallen logs and rocks, in banana plants and bromeliads.

    We humans know very little about spiders and we are still documenting species…

    Like

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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !