Phoneutria spp. commonly known as wandering spiders are a group of highly venomous spiders native to South America. In this article, we will delve into various aspects of Phoneutria spiders, including their characteristics, habitat, behavior, and a care sheet for those who are interested in keeping them.
Classification and Species: Phoneutria spiders are a genus within the family Ctenidae, which comprises several species. The most well-known species are Phoneutria nigriventer, Phoneutria boliviensis, Phoneutria reidyi, and Phoneutria fera.
Physical Characteristics: Wandering spiders are known for their impressive size. Adult can reach a leg span of up to 7 inches (18 cm). Their coloration varies among species but often includes shades of brown, black, yellow and tan, with distinctive patterns and markings that aid in camouflage. Some species have bright colors on their chelicerae as warnings to their venomous nature.
Habitat and Distribution: Phoneutria spp. are primarily found in tropical and subtropical regions from Coasta Rica to the northern parts of Argentina. They thrive in diverse habitats from rainforests to even urban areas. Their ability to adapt to human-altered environments, combined with their wandering nature, has led to occasional encounters with humans.
Behavior: The name “wandering spider” is derived from the spiders’ tendency to roam actively during the night, searching for prey. Unlike many other spider species, Phoneutria spiders do not construct intricate webs. Instead, they rely on their keen senses to detect prey and actively pursue it.
Diet: Their diet primarily consists of insects such as cockroaches, crickets, and beetles, but they may also consume prey such as lizards, and even small mammals such as mice.
Venom: The venom of Phoneutria spiders is considered one of the most potent among all spiders. It contains neurotoxins that can affect the nervous system, causing various symptoms in humans, including severe pain, priapism (prolonged erection), and, in rare cases, life-threatening complications. Due to their potent venom, Phoneutria spiders are of medical significance. Prompt medical attention is crucial if bitten, as antivenom and supportive care may be necessary to manage the symptoms and potential complications.
Considering the potential dangers associated with Phoneutria spiders, it is essential to emphasize that they are not recommended as pets for inexperienced or casual spider keepers. However, for those with the expertise and proper facilities, here are some guidelines to follow:
Enclosure: Provide a spacious terrarium or enclosure with secure lids to prevent escapes. Ensure good ventilation while maintaining appropriate humidity levels. Use a thin layer of substrate to help maintain humidity. Add suitable hiding spots, branches, and vertical structures to mimic their natural environment.
Temperature and Humidity: Maintain a temperature range of 75-85°F (24-29°C) during the day, with a slight drop at night. Humidity levels should be kept between 70-80%. Mist the enclosure as needed.
Feeding: Offer a varied diet of appropriately sized live insects, such as crickets, roaches, and superworms. Feed adult spiders 2-3 times a week and adjust feeding frequency for growing juveniles.
Safety: It is strongly advised not to handle Phoneutria spiders due to their venomous nature and aggressive tendencies.If necessary, use specialized tools, such as long forceps, for maintenance or transfers. Maintain a secure and escape-proof enclosure to prevent accidental exposure to humans or other pets. In case of a bite, seek immediate medical assistance and provide accurate information about the spider.
Phoneutria spp., the wandering spider, captivate both arachnid enthusiasts and researchers alike with their striking appearance and potent venom. While the care sheet provided serves as a guideline for experienced keepers, responsible ownership, cautious handling, and awareness of the associated risks should always be a priority when considering Phoneutria spiders in captivity.
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