FACT CHECK: Do These Images Show A Spider Whose Venom Will Kill A Human In 5 Minutes?
A post shared on Facebook claims to show pictures of a “poisonous spider” whose venom is capable of killing a human in five minutes.
The pictured spider’s venom is not poisonous to humans, according to experts.
The viral post includes three pictures of a brown spider, including one that appears to show it burrowed into the ground. “For those of you who are going to the beach. Please beware of this,” reads the post’s caption. “It’s a very poisonous spider. If it stings you you will die within 5 minutes.”
A reverse image search revealed the photos portray a type of cork-lid trapdoor spider known as a Cyclocosmia. An image of the spider and information about it can be found on spideridentifications.com. The website’s entry notes the spider inhabits parts of the U.S. and Asia but makes no mention of the spider’s alleged deadly venom.
The three photos included in the post were initially posted to Flickr in 2019 by photographer Nicky Bay, whose copyright logo appears in the corner of each photo. After seeing his photos circulating with misinformed claims attached to them, Bay took to Twitter in February 2020 to debunk the falsehood that the spider was dangerous.
“Anyway, the fake posts would state that this spider would kill humans easily etc etc,” wrote Bay in one tweet. “It is actually a very docile spider with medically insignificant venom. i.e. harmless to humans. It would also much rather hide than go chasing after anyone.”
Bay explained in an email to Check Your Fact that the photos were taken in Thailand in 2018. “It lives in burrows, definitely not near any beach,” he said. He also noted that while the spider uses venom to hunt its insect prey, it is harmless to humans.
Arachnologists confirmed Bay’s statements. (RELATED: Does This Image Show An ‘Endangered Starry Buttefly’?)
“Like almost all spiders it has venom (which is not the same thing as poison, although in common English the two are sometimes mixed up) which it uses to catch its food,” said Sebastian Echeverri, an arachnologist who runs the website spiderdaynightlive.com, in an email to Check Your Fact. “However, like almost all spiders, its venom barely does anything to humans, because no spiders can or need to eat humans.”
Cole Gilbert, a professor of entomology at Cornell University, concurred. “This is a trap door tarantula in the genus Cyclocosmia and is found in the southeast of the US, but is not particularly common,” said Gilbert. “Like all spiders, they do not sting as the blogger suggests. Additionally, the bite is venomous to their prey, but is not considered serious to people.”