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Dangerous Spiders in Africa

Most Dangerous and Scariest Spiders in Africa


While many African spiders are generally harmless, there are a few aggressive, venomous, massive, and downright dangerous spiders living in Africa. Below is a list of African spiders that in my opinion are all a bit frightening, but would actually never put me off visiting Africa. There are spiders that crave human blood; spiders that could kill a child with one bite; and spiders that are large, hairy and aggressive. But spiders are generally shy, and just like Africa's deadliest snakes, they very rarely bite human beings.

Baboon Spider (Harpactirinae) - Tarantulas of Africa

Black widow spider spinning web
Robert Llewellyn/Photolibrary/Getty Images

In Africa they are known as Baboon Spiders, you may be more familiar with the name "tarantula". Baboon spiders are not the most venomous spiders but they can give a nasty bite and can be very aggressive. Victims will experience severe pain at the bite site, vomit and feel weak and dizzy. Baboon spiders are large and hairy, their body size alone can reach up to 3 inches. There are over 40 species of baboon spiders living in Africa. They live on the ground, build silk burrows and generally wait for their prey to amble by. Female baboon spiders can live up to 25 years and many people choose them as pets which is leading to a decline in their numbers.

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Button Spider (Latrodectus) or Black Widow

Black Widow Spider, One of Africa's Most Dangerous Spiders

A particularly venomous species, the button spider injects a neurtoxic venom into its victims. You may be more familiar with the term, "Widow spider" given the fact that the larger female kills her mate once she's had her way with him. Coloring varies from cream to black and many have red markings on their bodies. A bite from a female button spider (especially the black ones) has the capacity to kill a child and seriously harm an adult. If bitten, the victim will be in a lot of intense pain, experience elevated blood pressure, muscle cramps and weakness in the legs. There are 6 species of button spider in Sub-Saharan Africa, from Madagascar to the Cape Verde Islands.

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Ogre-faced Spider (Deinopidae)

The Ogre-faced spider is found throughout Africa. It's not venomous, nor particularly large, but its face can scare the pants off any grown up I know. This is a fascinating creature. It spins a web between its long front legs, stretches it nice and wide and then leaps down onto its victims to trap them in it. Marvel comics must have been inspired by this spider.

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Sac Spider (Cheiracanthium)

Sac Spider, Venomous Spider Africa
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.

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Rain Spider (Huntsman Spider)

Rain Spider, Scary Spider, Africa
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.


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Violin Spider (Loxosceles)

Violin Spider, Venomous Spider in Africa

The Violin Spider (known as the Brown Recluse in the US) may be small in size (less than an inch ) but it packs a real venomous punch. Their bite may seem insignificant at first, but the highly cytotoxic venom starts to break down the victims skin tissue, causing a nasty, painful, blistering sore. The danger of a secondary infection is high if left untreated. Violin spiders are usually brown-ish, red in color, and they have three pairs of eyes. They hunt their prey at night and sleep in makeshift webs during the day, usually under logs, rocks or in caves. The 15 species of Violin spiders can be found throughout Africa although some are local. They are in fact a shy creature and many spider bites are falsely attributed to them.

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Six-Eyed Sand Spider (Sicarius)

Six-Eyed Sand Spider, Africa's Scary Spiders

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.

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Jumping Spider (Evarcha culicivora)

Vampire Jumping Spider - Evarcha culicivora, African Spider
© R.R Jackson

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.

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Darwin's Bark Spider (Caerostris darwini)

Web of Darwin's Bark Spider, largest web on earth, Madagascar

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.

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