Image: Philip N. Cohen
Image: Philip N. Cohen
Few creatures inspire as much revulsion and terror as the leggy, beady-eyed, fang-faced spider. Arguably the creepiest of all crawlies, spiders aren’t just gruesome to look at; they’re often masters of entrapment and ruthless killers that can ensnare, ambush or hunt down their prey with spine-chilling speed and surgical skill. Worse still, many of them have venomous bites that can do serious damage to a person.
Here are 25 eight-legged terrors that you definitely don’t want to share your home with. Arachnophobes, look away now.
25. Ogre-faced Spider
Forget what Shrek said about ogres. The ogre-faced spider is not like an onion, and it does not have layers. It’s horrible all the way through. Common in tropical and subtropical areas, this googly-eyed predator is renowned for the fiendish expandable net that it throws over the heads of unfortunate passing prey.
Image: L Church
24. Golden Silk Orb Weaver
The golden silk orb weaver is a tropical dweller that is sometimes called the banana spider because of its strangely shaped torso. This fearsome-looking arachnid is a talented web weaver, spinning large sticky structures that can be up to three feet across – large enough to ensnare a small bird.
Image: Ben PCC
23. Cellar Spider
The spindly cellar spider may look like some kind of harmless daddy longlegs, but it’s a ruthless killer. It pillages the webs of other arachnids and will sometimes eat the other spider if confronted. Scary to anyone with the slightest bit of arachnophobia, it can be found hiding in dark, damp places across the globe.
Image: via Fiboni
22. Happy Face Spider
Things don’t get much creepier than a spider with a big cheery grin. The aptly named Hawaiian happy face spider is minuscule in size, but if you look closely, it wears a bizarre smiley face on its back that is believed to deter predators. Works for us.
Image: Fritz Geller-Grimm
21. Tiger Spider
It seems like the stuff of nightmares: an eight-inch tarantula with a venomous bite and a horrifyingly quick running pace. Unfortunately, though, the tiger spider really exists. It lurks in the trees of Sri Lanka and gets its name from those distinctive stripes.
Image: S.E. Thorpe
The Gradungulidae family of spiders inhabits Australasia, and its members share some terrifying – and weird – family traits. These critters don’t just boast extra-long claws and unsettlingly muscular legs; they have two sets of lungs as well. Why? Who cares? Run.
Image: Oren Auster
19. Spitting Spider
The horrific-looking spitting spider doesn’t need a web. As its name suggests, this anti-social African spider immobilizes its victims by spewing a sticking secretion all over them. It then cocoons them in silk before delivering a fatal, venomous bite. Nice.
Image: US Fish and Wildlife Service
18. Spruce-Fir Moss Spider
Meet the tarantula’s little but scarcely less menacing-looking cousin, the spruce-fir moss spider. These endangered critters hunt using just their fangs rather than with the help of webs, and they’re very fussy about where they set up home, preferring to live high in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. So you know where to avoid them.
Image: Jon Richfield
17. Giant Huntsman Spider
With a leg span that can stretch to dinner-plate proportions, the giant huntsman is the planet’s largest spider. This intimidating colossus is commonly found Down Under, and when it spots its dinner, it gives chase with a crab-like run. Fortunately, when it spies humans, it tends to head in the other direction.
Image: Olaf Leillinger
16. Jumping Spider
Horrifyingly, there is such a thing as a jumping spider, and worse still, it is found all over the world. This eight-legged gymnast can leap into the air up to 50 times its own height to pounce, ninja-like, onto its unfortunate prey.
Image: Richard Pigott
15. Mouse Spider
Don’t be fooled by its name. Not only can the Australian mouse spider deliver a nasty bite, but it’s also a very devious underground hunter. This creepy little critter builds a dirt-covered system of trapdoors and silk tripwires and then waits camouflaged in its burrow, ready to pounce on prey from below. Yikes.
Image: Mike Keeling
14. Wolf Spider
A terrifying prospect, the wolf spider doesn’t need traps or trickery to catch its prey. This natural-born hunter – unfortunately found all over the world – is an agile runner that uses brute force to take down any given prey, pinning it on its back before delivering a fatal bite.
Image: Ryan Hide
13. Baboon Tarantula
Africa’s baboon tarantula boasts pretty much everything that you don’t want to find in a spider: a thick, hairy body, a mighty pair of black fangs, a venomous bite, a horned torso, and – last but not least – eight grippy feet that enable it to crawl up your window.
Image: via Nature Photographic Society
12. Bird Dung Crab Spider
The bird dung crab spider of southern Asia is just as charming as it sounds. Not content with simply looking a bit like a pile of feces, this spider actually smells like avian excrement, too. A lazy lump of a hunter, this sinister-looking fellow can lie motionless for hours, hoping to attract insects with its pungent odor.
Image: Vaughan Leiberum
11. Camel Spider
The camel spider’s mighty jaws make it a fearful predator in the deserts of the Middle East, the U.S. and Mexico. This genuinely terrifying spider comes out to hunt when the sun goes down, can reach speeds of up to 10 mph and uses those jaws to mash up small reptiles and birds. Steer clear.
10. Six-Eyed Sand Spider
The six-eyed sand spider is another desert dweller and another truly fearsome hunter. This camouflaged killer lies hidden in the southern African sand, and its venom results in blood vessels opening and tissue breaking down. Fortunately, there have been no validated cases of it biting humans – yet.
Image: Adam Opioła
9. Zebra Spider
The zebra spider belongs to the arachnid S.W.A.T. unit. Instead of spinning a web, it weaves a kind of silk bungee rope that is uses to launch itself off walls and trees to ambush its prey. This two-tone hunter is indigenous to Europe but can be found scaling sunny surfaces worldwide.
8. Assassin Spider
It doesn’t get much weirder and scary-looking than the aptly named assassin spider – the long-necked cannibal of the eight-legged world. The assassin preys on other spiders in Madagascar, South Africa and Australia. How? It pokes at other spiders’ webs with its pincer-like legs, luring the dweller out and into its giant, impaling jaws.
7. Redback Spider
Australia’s version of the black widow, the redback spider has a venomous bite that can cause agony, vomiting and intense sweating in humans. Calculatingly, the redback can actually control how much venom that it injects, and the right – or wrong – amount can kill a person. You’ve been warned.
Image: The Reptilarium
6. Goliath birdeater
Weighing as it does up to six ounces, the Goliath birdeater is the heaviest of all spiders, while its legs can reach a span of 11 inches. This furry but far from cute arachnid lives in South American rainforests, and its weaponry includes a pair of venomous fangs and piercing, irritating bristles – the latter of which it can fire at will.
Image: Bernard DuPont
5. Trapdoor Spider
The trapdoor spider lives Down Under – and down under – for up to 30 years in a complex subterranean lair furnished with silk-lined walls and a hidden entrance. Inside this home for life, the fearsome spider waits patiently for unsuspecting house guests to fall through the soil and drop in for dinner.
4. Sydney Funnel-web Spider
The Sydney funnel-web spider beats off some formidable competition to earn the title of Australia’s deadliest spider, and it has its piercing fangs – which can penetrate toenails – to thank for the title. Sharp, long and lethal, these barbs yield a devastating venom that can damage the human nervous system.
Image: NC State University
3. Brown Recluse Spider
The brown recluse spider ranks as one of the most feared arachnids in the U.S. because of the large, angry lesion that it will leave on a given victim. In spite of its reclusive nature, this spider won’t think twice about sinking its venomous fangs into human skin if threatened, in doing so delivering a gruesome injury that can turn gangrenous.
2. Black Widow
The black widow is feared throughout the Americas, and for good reason. Renowned for the habit of cannibalizing her own mates, the female can be pretty dangerous to humans, too. Her bite is 15 times more venomous than a rattlesnake’s and can kill infants and the elderly.
Image: João P. Burini
1. Brazilian Wandering Spider
A nip from the Brazilian wandering spider carries a stiff penalty. This bad boy’s venom can be fatal within a couple of hours, attacking as it does a person’s nervous system and causing heart and lung problems. And for men there’s the added possible complication of an excruciatingly painful, hours-long erection.