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What Is a Banana Spider?

The North American banana spider.
Banana spiders are sometimes found in bunches of bananas.
Bananas spiders feed on crickets, among other prey.
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  • Originally Written By: R. Kayne
  • Revised By: Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 23 June 2014
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The term “banana spider” can refer to two entirely different arachnids, the nephila clavipes of North America and the phoneutria of South America. The varieties can be about the same size, but they have dramatically different appearances and habitats. The former type, which spins a web known for its incredible strength, is shy and fairly harmless. The latter kind, which travels over the ground and hunts instead of making a web, is aggressive and has a potentially lethal bite.

Names

Phoneutria also are known as bananenspinne, kammspinne and wandering spiders. Some people also call them armed spiders. Common names for N. clavipes are writing spider and golden orb weaver.

The label “banana spider” is associated with phoneutria because they sometimes hide in banana bunches. This habit has resulted in people accidentally shipping them to grocery stores in other countries. North American versions earned this name because the females have a yellow body.

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Appearance

The body of the South American banana spider generally falls between 0.7 and 1.9 inches (1.8 to 4.8 cm). The leg span is between 4 and 5 inches (13 to 15 cm). The female North American golden orb weaver is comparable in size. It has a body length between 1 and 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) and a leg span of up to 5 inches (15 cm), making it the largest non-tarantula arachnid in North America. The male is smaller, with a body size up to 0.5 inches (1.27 cm) and a leg span of up to 1.5 inches (3.81 cm).

A phoneutria typically has a brownish coloring, similar to a male N. clavipes. Some species have a distinctive red coloring around the jaws. The legs of a female N. clavipes have alternating brown-black and yellow-green sections, which serves as a warning to predators. The coloring sometimes causes people to get golden orb weavers confused with another common garden arachnid, the argiope.

Habitat

Individuals have encountered species of phoneutria in nearly every region of South America. These arachnids are nocturnal and hide in areas such as wood piles, banana plants, dark areas of homes and within clothing. People call them “wandering” because they move across the jungle floor when active.

N. clavipes reside mostly in southeastern North America. They usually stay around bushes and flower plants in gardens, but they prefer sunny areas and like trees. It is not unusual to find them living across walkways or trails. Unlike their South American counterparts, they are much more visible and typically don’t catch people by surprise as much.

Webs

Although wandering spiders can spin silk and use it during climbing, they do not build webs. The lack of a web means they must hunt for food actively. The North American variety does make a web, which can span several feet wide. It is common to find the webs at eye level, as this is a good height for catching insects. The durability of these homes is notable, as the silk is stronger than Kevlar®.

Diet

Both varieties of banana spider feast on insects found in their environment, such as wasps, fruit flies, locusts, crickets and bees. Larger phoneutria also may eat larger prey such as lizards and mice. N. clavipes can eat these bigger meals, as well, but they generally do not get the chance, as they are much more shy, have a less potent bite and rely on their webs to catch food.

Lifespan

South American banana spiders can live up to two years. The North American type has a slightly shorter lifespan. They usually do not live longer than a year.

Toxicity and Danger Level

Being able to tell these two types of arachnids apart through elements such as appearance, web building, lifespan and diet is critical because of the difference in venom toxicity. The venom of N. clavipes is similar in nature to that of the black widow, but it is far less potent, making it quite harmless to humans in the majority of cases. A bite from the North American kind usually doesn’t result in much more than a welt that passes within 24 hours. Some individuals do experience a more severe allergic reaction, however, which can cause difficulty breathing and muscle cramping.

Phoneutria, whose name means “murderess,” are among the world’s most dangerous arachnids, with the 2012 Guiness Book of World Records labeling them as the most poisonous. Their venom causes potentially deadly reactions in the nervous system. Bites result in severe, immediate pain, cold sweats and irregular heartbeat. Fast medical attention is necessary when these bites occur. The aggressiveness of phoneutria makes them even more problematic, as they will bite multiple times before retreating.

With South American banana spiders having the ability to kill, getting them out of living and working areas is a must. Many people don’t bother to remove golden orb weavers because they keep the populations of pesky insects down. When someone does want to get rid of them, all he has to do is tear down the webs so they will go somewhere else.

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Discuss this Article

anon317943
Post 47

Ugh. This research we've been doing on spiders I'd creeping me out. I'm getting itchy and have the creepy crawling all over. I live in Southern California, and I don't like spiders. Back in September, my son and I saw a fuzzy, glowing green eyed spider on our milk weed plant. We were scared that this green and black alien looking spider was going to feast on our monarch caterpillars. So we freaked. Dada went out and caged the spider.

The very next day, we saw yet another spider (the same kind) on the other milk weed. I thought it had gotten out of the terrarium. Nope, it was another one, maybe looking to eat our caterpillars. Dada caught both, then released them after a while, since the lizards got away, which is why the terrarium was free.

anon217139
Post 46

I live in Florida and the banana spiders around my home are very beautiful. I have learned they are not poisonous and their webs are very strong. They are territorial and fascinating. Unfortunately, it is said that they die off in the winter months.

To tarantula enthusiasts, I would call them arboreal spiders because of their webbing. Yes, they are cheaper pest control and sometimes spiritual guides. Their webs can hold twigs and branches which is sad, but they rarely do house keeping. I find their gold metallic abdomens to be quite beautiful. While smoking I watch it live peacefully and sometimes feed it pests I don't want. I need some terrestrial spiders in the yard to help with ants.

anon154073
Post 45

The side of my house has a lot of banana spiders and webs here in Kona, Hawaii. I think it is an infestation. But we go around and under their webs because they don't bother us and eat the flying bugs and gnats.

What I don't understand is how they can let their webs stick together to other webs?

anon146414
Post 44

I've been bass fishing in the storm drain reservoirs around Savannah, GA several years ago. I saw an infestation of these brightly banned legs and tiny bodies of what I believe are Banana Spiders. The males are grey and significantly smaller. At any rate, the females in this infested area were as large as steering wheels! I will never fish in those reservoirs in Savannah again!

anon117378
Post 42

Ok my dad wants to take the banana spider to our new house so he can eat the mosquitoes. My mom thinks they're dangerous because my 1 year old brother might mess with it. My dad is going to put it in a can. Can they bite or jump? thanks.

anon112554
Post 41

I have a banana spider at my school. One kid threw a ball at it and it fell down. Then, he picked up the ball and held it. Moments later, "Ahhhhhhh!" The spider bit him and they rushed him to the hospital and the kid almost died. Now no one bothers spiders at my school.

anon109830
Post 40

Spiders are very helpful for the environment and should not be killed when they are outside -- period.

Guess what? Not only have I not killed a black widow that was outside, I moved her to a safe place. I am also not crazy and know how to properly use to, too and two. If you don't touch them, you will not get bitten.

Spiders inside my house are another story. I will kill them in the house, but never outside in their home.

anon105368
Post 39

I don't believe it is a banana spider in the snake's cage. They tend to have very large webs that are out in the open, not confined to small spaces. If I were you, I would keep the cage away from children and pets in case it is a biting spider, but watch it and learn from it.

anon105041
Post 38

My snake died so I left the cage outside and a banana spider took over the cage and completely covered the inside with web. What should I do?

I read that the poison spider has red and black legs. And the non poison one has a yellow back. this one has both. What should I do get rid of it. Kill it or call the animal people?

anon102547
Post 37

I have one the size of my hand right next to my floodlights out back. I know for a fact that it catches and eats all kinds of insects. I've decided to let her stay and eat! Anything that kills mosquitoes is a friend of mine.

anon98341
Post 36

I am glad to see that there are folks out there who appreciate the banana spiders. To the person who asked if they would hurt your dog - nope! We have many around our yard, and even though they are near our dogs, they have never caused them any problems at all.

We thoroughly enjoy them even though I walk into their webs once in awhile and get mad at myself for forgetting it's there. Please don't put them in jars - they belong outside and will die off in the winter as they should, naturally.

anon97336
Post 35

I have a banana spider outside of my screen porch. She is in the corner between the house and porch and up high. No "people" traffic at all.

Although I hate spiders of any kind, I won't kill her. She just hangs there and eats. From what I've read, the small spider next to her is the male, not a baby. They can also have more than one male in the web with them. These spiders are all over GA and FL, especially in low hanging trees and plants, so watch where you walk.

anon86007
Post 34

While biking through some overgrown trails in northern Florida I peddled face first into a large banana spider web. The web was yellow with pollen and I felt my speed decrease as it provided resistance.

I stopped to make sure the spider was OK, and found him/her resting on my shoulder as shaken as myself. I put him/her on a branch and kept riding. I am still amazed at these magnificent creatures.

anon76382
Post 32

any spiders you find should be killed. People who keep them around and name them are crazy not to smart. Wait until you get bit.

anon72667
Post 31

I have three huge spiders which I have personally identified as banana spiders in my back yard. They are gorgeous and even have baby spiders!

My Dad was going to kill my favourite spider so i transferred him to another spiders web. big mistake! The other spider killed him.

But it's been amazing watching them each day. I saw them catch a gecko and eat it! was awesome!

I have been catching moths and flies for them to eat. They make a beautiful web and from what i have observed, they stay in that same place on that one web. I find them friendly creatures. I named mine. i love them!

anon71480
Post 30

Whoever has a spider near their house and names it and lets it stay is weird. If you see one, you should kill it. Deadly or not, they are still dangerous.

Also brazilian banana spiders have been known to make it to North America alive, usually in a shipment with bananas, so do you really want to take the chance that the one you saw wasn't deadly?

Brazilian banana spiders have a nasty bite, so have fun guessing which one's which before it's too late. All spiders should be kept away from people. They're good for keeping the pest population down from a distance far from your home or adding to it by being in or around your home.

You wouldn't let a black widow live with you would you? These spiders are not a decoration for your house or a pet. get rid of them.

anon52492
Post 29

Wow! Banana spiders are cool. We have one in our garden. She looks so cool! I live in Georgia and we have a lot round here.

anon49487
Post 28

I was looking up banana spiders because my daughter is studying them in the second grade. The brazilian Banana spider is completely different than the North American banana spider. Also look up north american banana spider and you will see a spider quite different than what we in the south consider a banana spider. The spider we call banana spider in north america and especially in the south east is a garden spider. She is beautiful! And in the winter she dies because of the colder weather, she is not poisonous.

anon47924
Post 27

Here in Georgia when I go fishing I have found that they are quite a friendly spider and, have found out that where they spin their webs here is a highly fished or used trail. I think this spider is somewhat dependent on us as for all the things we have built around them. In a way this does make sense, since most other insects have found that around people food and shelter is easier to find like all the flying insects that feed off of us. Down to the ants that carry away the small particles of food that we somehow drop. i have watched these spiders eat and let me tell you im glad i'm not a fly. lol!

anon45144
Post 26

We have a writing spider (a.k.a. banana/garden spider, that formed a web on our window out back. She is beautiful, quiet, doesn't move around much. Then, one day it was gone. I miss seeing her. I found her the other day just down from the deck near the AC unit. She had built a fascinating web from the utility pole to the ac unit. I have been pressure washing our deck and trailer and I have disturbed her, not meaning to, but she hasn't moved and is still there. I read that in the winter time she will die because of the cold. I wonder if I could jar her or something so she'll live through the winter and place her back out in the spring? Does anyone know?

anon44947
Post 25

Okay, I have one of these huge things living on the side of my house. She pretty much stays in the same place in her web much of the time. But, after reading this info, I am more than a bit concerned for my dog. Although the spider is not within the dog's reach, will the spider stay where she is, or should I get rid of her?

anon44236
Post 24

I have one that built a web across my front door. It was beautiful so I just left it there to do its thing and I go out the side door. Spiders don't bother me.

anon43829
Post 23

I have a banana spider on my back porch and i watched it shed its shorter legs for bigger legs. it's amazing.

anon43333
Post 22

From what I understand, there are two kinds of bananna spiders. There is a species in Central America, I think, that is poisonous, but not the big ones in Florida. They are quite benign and quiet. I have wandered into their webs before and had no problem other than getting the web off of me - it's sticky. Take the time to watch them - especially when they are making their webs - it's really fascinating.

anon43065
Post 21

Banana spiders are pretty but dude! If they bite you? My grandma who lives in florida told me that they are not poisonous, then here online I read they are? What is the truth! I was like two inches from walking into one when I was visiting her and it had two babies next to it! The mother was the size of my hand. I live in Pennsylvania and I also saw one on my butterfly bush and It was even bigger then my hand!

anon42767
Post 20

I don't know why you would want to kill these beautiful and very interesting spiders. They won't hurt you. Except for a couple of poisonous species, of which the banana spider is not one, they are very beneficial in eating other insect pests. Just think - no pesticides needed!

anon42538
Post 19

my brother found a banana spider in his car in the black shade that's on his back window so he put it in a jar. then my other brother put a cotton ball with nail polish remover on it or alcohol and put it in the jar and now the spider is dead.:(

anon41631
Post 18

I live in Poplarville, Mississippi. We started out with one of these spiders and they have multiplied to about ten. It is creepy. Eww.

anon40856
Post 17

I have a banana spider living outside my house in a corner. She has a very large web. One day I noticed that she had lost two of her front legs on one side. about a week later she molted, but didn't grow new legs, (we had a tarantula who did grow her lost legs back) I think spiders are fascinating and good to have around. i will let her stay.

anon36718
Post 16

What chemicals will kill banana spiders?

anon32546
Post 15

I think it's called a banana spider because of the yellow and black in it's legs, much like an old banana is yellow with black spots.

BTW whoever said that the silk is 6x stronger than steel is incorrect. I saw the same article and it said it's stronger by a power of 6 which is much different. For example:

2x6=12 2^6=64

The firsts is 6 times 2 and the other is 2 to the 6th power. So you can see that by being stronger than steel to the 6th power is much, much greater than just being 6 times as strong.

Also, the reason you can't tell that it's that much stronger is because of it's diameter. Their silk is very strong but since it's so thin you can easily break it. If you were to get enough to make a solid weave from it, it would surpass kevlar in strength and probably be much more flexible.

anon28025
Post 14

i am very afraid of spiders and when i found this spider in the bush outside my house i almost had a heart attack. i'm getting rid of it as soon as my older brother gets home!!!

anon23041
Post 13

I have went around my 6 acres of land on my four-wheeler before and counted over 140 banana spiders. I hate spiders. I stay inside a lot when they are around.

anon18388
Post 12

I have one beside my back door. She had 2 huge egg sacs on the side of my house. Yes the web is really strong. And she wove her web across my steps where u cant walk down. I got several pictures. I named her Charlene.

anon17423
Post 11

I was bitten behind the ear by a banana spider in my tomato patch in Portugal. First day it itched, 2nd and third day enormous welt behind ear along with what felt like an inner ear infection, by the fourth day the poison had spread over one half of my scalp, not in the form of blister but as a fiery red flat rashes at nodule points, confirmed by a doctor. 30 different areas where affected across my scalp. The bite point was turning black. Intense heat and burning, sometimes waking me at night. Ice helped. The second week with rounds of antibiotics and pain killers, it slowly began to subside. Now during the third week, intense itching and still isolated pockets of pain at the nodules. Maybe with head bites it's different but let me say, 24hrs does not cut it.

anon16320
Post 10

Kirinqueen, imagine if you had a thread of kevlar or steel as thin as the spider's web, that is what the article is saying. If you had a thread of steel and of spider's web of the same size, the spider's thread would be harder to rip.

anon15007
Post 9

ok people the only way that the web would be stronger than steel or Kevlar would be if it was of the same size as a steel bar. For its size it's stronger than steel but because its so thin it's still fragile. I came across three banana spiders and felt the web and thought to myself that it was a very strong web.

anon14295
Post 8

Can't remember where I saw it now, but the threads of the banana spider have been tested and came out 6x stronger than steel. The key word in the article is "comparable" threads of steel or Kevlar... meaning equally thin.

anon5091
Post 4

For the guy talking about the bodyarmor made out of Spidersilk, they've already made it! it's called "BioArmor"

angeldog
Post 3

We have many banana spiders around our house here in North Florida and we generally leave them alone, even tho they make a big mess what with leaves and twigs "decorating" their webs.

They seem to arrive at the beginning of summer and then grow to a really impressive size. Where do they go in the winter?

I would like information about their life cycles and eating habits.

anon1931
Post 2

The comment on the North America Banana Spider (and actually most spider species) silk being stronger than steel or Kevlar is accurate. If one were to encounter a thread of Kevlar or Steel, it would not be difficult to tear away, as each thread would be only a few micrometers in diameter. If one were to weave a jacket out of spidersilk, it would be far more resilliant than on of Kevlar. Scientists are currently working on synthesising spidersilk in large enough amounts to be useful.

kirinqueen
Post 1

Can someone verify that the argiope banana spider's silk is "stronger than Kevlar or steel"? I'm sure there's an element of truth here, but this idea makes the concept of "simply tearing down" a web you don't want an absurd one.

It looks like one kind of banana spider is so named because of its habitat, while the other is so-called because of its appearance. A note like this might be useful.

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