You will have undoubtedly heard scary things about spiders found in banana crates, but while creepy crawlies do indeed occasionally find their way into imported banana shipments, most are harmless to humans (apart from a Brazilian kind which we’ll look into below).
Banana spider is the name commonly given to spider species around the world that have long yellow bodies and live on banana plants. Most kinds, like the Golden orb-weaver, have very mild venom and spend their time spinning strong, intricate silk webs. The only truly dangerous banana spider is the Brazilian wandering spider, whose bite can be fatal.
Banana spiders are common in warm regions of the US during summer, so it helps to know a little more about them if you’re concerned about bites whilst out exploring. This brief guide looks at identifying each type of banana spider, their life cycles, and whether they pose a threat to humans and pets.
Where Can You Find Banana Spiders?
Banana spiders are common in Texas, North Carolina and California, but can also be found in parts of Asia, Australia, Africa, Central and south America, islands in the Pacific ocean, and even in Eastern Canada during summer. They are often found in forest clearings near trees and shrubs where low-flying insects thrive.
5 Types of Banana Spiders
There are five kinds of spiders commonly referred to as ‘banana spiders’ around the world:
Golden silk orb-weaver (Nephila)
These spiders are found in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas and have cylindrical black and yellow bodies with skinny black legs with yellow accents. Their strong, intricate webs are the first thing you’ll notice about them since they can reach 6 ft in diameter!
Hawaiian Garden Spider
Found on islands in the Pacific ocean, this spider has striking black and yellow banding on its legs and a bright yellow body shaped like a king’s crown. Their webs are extra durable due to the unique zig-zag design, which can help you set them apart from Golden orb-weavers.
Golden silk orb-weaver (Trichonephila Clavipes)
These are very similar to the Nephila banana spiders, though these have longer, less yellow bodies and have sections of hair on their legs unlike the skinny slender legs of a Nephila. These orb-weavers are found throughout North, South and Central America.
Cupiennius chiapanensis (Red-faced Spider)
Native to the Americas, this spider is easily identified by the bright red hairs around its mouth – a key feature telling it apart from the deadly Brazilian wandering spider. Their bodies are large, brown and furry with slender legs and this is the spider most commonly found in imported banana shipments.
Brazilian Wandering Spider
The only banana spider with fatal levels of venom, the Brazilian wandering spider is large, brown, and hairy with distinctive dense patches of hair on its front appendages. Unlike the red-faced spider, the Brazilian has white/yellow patches on the underside of its legs.
What Do Banana Spiders Eat?
They eat a variety of insects that include:
- Small butterflies
What Animal Eats Banana Spiders?
The natural predators of banana spiders include animals like lizards, birds, wasps known as ‘tarantula hawks’, monkeys, scorpions, and other large spiders, such as the Goliath tarantula.
How Long Do Banana Spiders Live?
About 12 months on average. Banana spiders have a short, functional lifespan that sees them mature in summer, mate in fall and die within weeks of producing their last eggs.
How Big are Banana Spiders?
Including leg span, banana spiders can grow to be over 5 inches. Females are typically larger than males, measuring 1-3 inches whilst male bodies measure under 0.5 inches.
Do Banana Spiders Molt?
Yes, like most spider species banana spiders molt their exoskeleton to grow stronger. They shed frequently as young (once a month) before molting less frequently as they mature and prepare to mate. Adult spiders only live around 1 month after their final molt.
Are Banana Spiders Nocturnal?
Only the Red-faced and the Brazilian wandering spider are nocturnal, as they actively hunt their prey at night on the forest floor. Other banana spider types build webs to catch their prey during the day instead.
How Many Babies Do Banana Spiders Have?
Females can produce 1-2 large egg sacs, and contained within each egg sac are hundreds of eggs, so banana spiders can have up to 1,000 babies and possibly more.
Do Banana Spiders Die After Laying Eggs?
Female banana spiders usually die within weeks of spinning their last egg sac. This is because giving birth depletes their nutrients and they cannot survive for much longer after passing on their genetics.
How Long Does It Take for Banana Spiders Eggs to Hatch?
Technically the eggs hatch within 3-4 weeks of being laid (normally in the fall) but banana spider eggs will remain in the egg sac until temperatures rise in spring.
Why are Banana Spiders Called Banana Spiders?
Because they usually have yellow bodies and also live in and lay their eggs in the leaves of banana plants. They are also occasionally found in imported banana crates.
Are Banana Spiders Poisonous to Humans?
Only one banana spider’s venom is extremely poisonous to humans and requires urgent medical attention, whilst others are mild and can be treated at home as you would after a bee sting. Bites from mildly venomous banana spiders may hospitalize infants, small pets and those with allergies/weak immune systems.
Venom strength in banana spiders:
- Golden silk orb-weavers (Nephila/Trichonephila) – harmless to humans. Mild sting and redness.
- Red-faced banana spider – very mild, similar to a bee sting.
- Hawaiian garden spider – mild pain and swelling.
- Brazilian wandering spider – extremely poisonous. Bites can be fatal in young children.
Are Banana Spiders Poisonous to Dogs?
The Brazilian wandering spider is highly toxic to dogs and will require immediate medical attention if they eat or are bitten by this spider. Other types will cause a much milder reaction. Symptoms of spider poisoning in dogs can include:
- Tender Abdomen
- Joint pain
- Rapid breathing
- Red ring around bite area
Depending on the severity of your dog’s reaction to the spider venom, an emergency vet may treat them with antibiotics or administer oxygen therapy and fluids to keep them hydrated and improve their breathing.
Are Banana Spiders Aggressive?
Despite their intimidating looks, banana spiders are quite shy. They will only become aggressive if you give them a reason to feel threatened, such as holding them or provoking them, in which case they can bite in self-defense.
Can Banana Spiders Be Pets?
Only those with prior experience in keeping spiders would be best to take on banana spiders as pets. Not only can their potent venom pose a risk to pets and vulnerable members of your household, but banana spiders also require a large and costly enclosure due to the size of their webs.
The striking colors of banana spiders make them popular and attractive pets for many arachnophiles – if you are determined to care for a banana spider species, the non-venomous Golden silk orb-weaver is a good place to start.