Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Venomous spider found in Waitrose shopping 'beautiful but aggressive'

While most spiders scurry away when confronted, the Brazilian wandering spider stands its ground, says David Clarke of London Zoo

Dave Clarke, head of invertebrates, ZSL London Zoo, Monday 20 October 2014 14.35 BST
The Brazilian wandering spider – which according to reports over the weekend emerged from a South London family’s Waitrose delivery – is one of the most infamous species of venomous spider.

It is actually a very beautiful spider, quite big, with about a 15-centimetre (six-inch) leg span. It is also quite aggressive, and while most spiders run away when confronted, the Brazilian wandering spider might stand its ground and has a particularly impressive stance – it rears up on its back legs and looks quite menacing. If it feels threatened it adopts an “attack first, ask questions later” sort of defence.

The species of Brazilian wandering spider that people tend to talk about are Phoneutria fera and Phoneutria nigriventer, which sometimes come into the UK – mainly because of things like fruit being imported. Accidentally imported spiders such as the one encountered by the family in South London are rare these days, however, because importers tend to clean off the fruit very well. There’s still the slight chance that one might be hidden away in a hand of bananas and get through.

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