As some of you might know, I recently spent a few days in hospital…from a spider bite. Yes, its sounds like BS but I assure you it was quite kak.
It was a Friday afternoon and the gate motor of our complex seized up and needed to be manually unlocked and opened. Since I am the only tenant under the age of 60 that was available I did a good deed and climbed into the tiny space, and got the gate working again. You know that tiny pinch you get when you feel a mosquito bite you? It felt like that but on my fore arm. I slapped my arm and noticed I had slapped the little sucker biting me. A tiny pale (very VERY common) spider.
Admittedly I was a little grossed out but didn’t think much of it. I was fine, no harm no foul…yet. It bit me on the Friday afternoon and by Sunday it was a rather large red bump. We have our best mates over for movies almost every Sunday evening and they both mocked me, telling me to go get it checked out and saying they will take pity on me and feed me when my arm falls off.
By Monday I felt…sick. Fever, pain, you name it. But being inherently stubborn I refused to go to the doctor. (Who REALLY gets sick from a spider bite, I mean really now?)
Tuesday morning my arm had reached “take the arm I don’t need it, I will learn to write with my left hand” status. My neighbour (and Joburg mommy) next door took one look at me and said there is no way about it we are going to casualty.
Off I went thinking they might give me fluids for an hour or two. WRONG. I got a bloody surgical consult and the surgeon pointed at my arm and said “yeah we are going to have to cut that out”.
And so my first ever hospital stay was for a spider bite.
What kind of spider you ask? A Sac Spider.
So as little treat, I thought I’d tell you about the top five spiders that suck in Africa. (pack your Doom and Tabbart folks)
Sac Spider (Cheiracanthium) —–> This is the little sucker that likes the way I taste.
Sac spiders are thought to bite more humans than any other spider. Their venom contains a cytotoxin, which means it kills cells and will lead to tissue breakdown and blistering at the bite site. Sac spiders are quite pale, the most common house species are pale greenish, tan or straw colored. They have distinctive long front legs that face forward and wave about when on the hunt. Sac spiders actively hunt at night and weave together a protective tube of silk to rest in during the day. Sac spiders are very useful to farmers because they control pests. There are many species of Sac spider in Africa, at least 3 species have been identified in Egyptian cotton fields alone.
The Rain spider is brown, enormous and by default somewhat terrifying. It could give you a heart attack if you’re scared of spiders, but technically they’re quite harmless. Their legs can span more than 3 inches and are hairy to boot. Their bodies are smooth and plump. While they can bite, their venom is relatively weak and a human will recover in a matter of days. The females will get very aggressive while defending their eggs. Rain Spiders hunt at night and sleep during the day. They’re called Rain Spiders in Southern Africa because they tend to be more active just before and after it rains. In South Africa it’s very common to have these spiders move into your home just before the summer rains.
The six-eyed sand spiders’ Genus is Sicarius, which is latin for “murderer”; a strong hint that this is a toxic beastie. One bite can kill a rabbit in just a few hours. While there are no recorded cases of human fatalities, this is one spider you should avoid. The six-eyed sand spider lives in desert areas in southern Africa, like the Kalahari and Namib deserts. It’s sometimes called the crab spider because it moves like a crab. It buries itself in the sand and waits for its victims to wander by before it strikes. The venom of the six-eyed sand spider is hemolytic/necrotoxic, which causes blood vessel leakage, tissue destruction and multi-organ breakdown. Luckily, this is one shy spider.
Jumping spiders stalk their prey rather than weaving a web. Evarcha culicivora is a jumping spider found in Kenya and Uganda. This jumping spider apparently has such an affinity for human blood, it shows a strong preference for female mosquitoes who are filled with the stuff. While it doesn’t have the mouth tools necessary to jump on humans and feast directly, the idea of a vampire spider who likes the taste of human blood, is scary enough to make it on this list.
Darwin’s Bark spider, lives and works in Madagascar, and some parts of South Africa. It is the architect of the largest web in the world. Webs are woven across entire rivers and span up to 30 square feet. In order to attain this astonishing size, the silk is twice as elastic as that of other spiders and considered to be the toughest biological material ever found. I’ve added this incredible spider to the “scary” list because I keep imagining what it must feel like to walk into one of these webs by mistake.