I’ve been guilty of it and there’s a good chance that you or someone that you might know has also been guilty of this in the past: claiming that the daddy longlegs is the most poisonous spider in the world.
Here’s how the typical claim goes. “Did you know that the most poisonous spider in the world is the daddy longlegs? Yep, it’s true. Just one touch of their venom in the bloodstream would kill a full grown man in minutes. The only reason they are harmless is because their fangs are unable to penetrate human skin.”
Many people still mistakenly believe this fabrication. I used to believe it. So what better a way to make the truth known than here.
Here’s the truth.
According to entomologists at the University of California, Riverside, the term “daddy longlegs” refers to not one, but two different insect types: opilionids arachnids, which have oval-shaved bodies and eight legs that are longer (but are not considered to be spiders); and pholcids, which also have longer legs and smaller bodies, and are actually considered to be spiders; whereas the opilionids arachnids are not.
As a matter of fact, opilionids eat a diet that consists namely of decomposing vegetables. “They do not have venom glands, fangs or any other mechanism for chemically subduing their food,” the UC entomologists explain. “Therefore, they do not have poison and, by the powers of logic, cannot be poisonous from venom. Some have defensive secretions that might be poisonous to small animals if ingested. So, for these daddy longlegs, the tale is clearly false.”
Pholcids, however, the true spider version of daddy longlegs, are venomous and are predators. Their fangs can penetrate human skin, and it’s not known to be deadly. In reality, it’s never been fully researched because they rarely bite human beings. And when they do, it’s unlikely to do more than leave an annoying bite mark, much like any other house spider would.
On Mythbusters, they actually subject a cast member, co-host Adam Savage, to the bite of a daddy longlegs. The fangs can penetrate human skin and leave what Savage said was a burning sensation that lasted for mere seconds.
Hardly the unavoidable, nearly instant death by neurotoxins that the myth prescribes.
And there you have it.
So… what is the world’s most poisonous spider? It’s actually the Brazilian wandering spider.
Oddly enough, there is an anti-venom for its bite, and it’s currently being studied because the venom acts like a blood stimulator and causes long-lasting erections that may lead to a future treatment for erectile dysfunction.
According to Wikipedia, “Aside from causing intense pain, the venom of the spider can also cause priapism in humans. Erections resulting from the bite are uncomfortable, can last for many hours and can lead to impotence. A component of the venom (Tx2-6) is being studied for use in erectile dysfunction treatments.”
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.