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Cypriot Nature – Spiders of Cyprus


Spiders of Cyprus

by Ralph Kratzer

My article about “Snakes of Cyprus” from last year was one of the most read posts on our website (to remember – click here!).

spidersThat’s why I decided to report on another species of wild life in Cyprus, which might also not be entirely at ease for most of our readers… spiders!

Spiders are the big players in Cyprus and now because it is cold, they seek the proximity of our homes!

Although many people find spiders unpleasant in appearance, the majority of this species are harmless and of direct benefit to householders, as they help to control flies, mosquitoes and other insects by means of their webs and their predatory nature.

Although all spiders tend to run away rather than attack unprovoked, some of them can be dangerous if accidentally touched.

Most of the spiders on the island are harmless and, indeed, will catch the annoying mosquitoes and other bugs in their webs. Unfortunately, unlike in Middle Europe, not ALL of the Cyprus spiders are harmless.

There are numerous species of spiders in Cyprus, but there are only FOUR of any medical importance.

Here they are:

1. Cyprus Widow

Spiders_black widowPossibly the most commonly known of the venomous spiders in the world is the formidable Black Widow Spider. Found in Cyprus as well as the whole Middle East, this little beast can give a very nasty nip. Limbs have been known to triple in size after receiving a bite from the Black Widow. The Black Widow is shiny black with a red hourglass marking or red spots on its abdomen. Its cousin, the Brown Widow, is mottled brown and black with an orange hourglass marking on its backside. The female will grow to about 1cm with the male ones always being smaller. It is only the female that is the Spiders_brown widowvenomous sex. They can be found in warm, dry buildings, rubbish tips and under dry vegetation. Bites are painful but rarely fatal when treated promptly – in all cases medical attention should be sought immediately. The bite of the Cyprus Widow is painful and may lead to vomiting and muscle cramps, which may last for 2-5 days.

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2. European Tarantula

Spiders_tarantulaThese are large (up to 4 cm body length without legs), hairy, powerful spiders. That´s why they do not require potent venom to kill their prey. Tarantulas will bite if they are disturbed which causes localised pain and swelling similar to that of a wasp or hornet sting. They do not cause death!!! But anyhow, seek medical care immediately if bitten.

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3. Wolf Spider

Spiders_wolf spiderAlso referred to as the “Cyprus Tarantula”, is a scary looking creature and is bringing hundreds of people, not only expats but especially natives, close to a heart attack each year with their “aggressive nature and near deadly venom”.  The truth is a little easier to bear because they are not aggressive at all and the bite is virtually harmless, similar to a bee sting. Its size is again the stuff of urban myth with dinner plate spiders shrinking down to a scientist approved 3.5 cm long body with 7cm legs – more saucer than dinner plate! A person who suffers from arachnophobia will suffer more just at the sight of this spider than a person would if they were bitten. But anyhow, seek medical care if bitten!

4. Jumping Spider

Spiders_jumping spiderCommon in older homes are small brown spiders which jump, and which can cause very itchy bites that last two or three days. They can grow to 3/4 of an inch in length and although again not deadly, the bite can itch like crazy. Creams from pharmacies or tea-tree oil can soothe the bites.

To come to a conclusion:

All of them are beautiful creatures, best observed from a distance. To reduce the chances of any surprise run-in with a spider:

1) keep outdoor areas and sheds tidy and free of clutter

2) keep your grass or weeds well cut

3) always wear gloves when gardening

4) take extra care when approaching undisturbed areas of your garden or countryside, particularly areas of long grass, woodpiles or rocks

Never ever kill the spiders! They are very worthy creatures!

Best way to get rid of them in the house: catch the animal with a glass, take a piece of stiff paper, slide it under the glass and throw the spider out into the nature!

If you are scared, ask your partner or neighbour to do it! Or move to a hotel until the insect is gone :-)))

Spiders_mediterranean recluse

Mediterranean Recluse

Latest update! Two of our readers draw attention to the existence of another venomous species of spiders in Cyprus, the so called Mediterranean Recluse. Please read their comments by clicking here!

Supplement: View pictures of a snake killing a rat in a garden in North Cyprus and of a Tarantula captured in my bathroom and released to nature again – click here!

The little video below shows that Tarantulas (and all the other big spiders) only attack when they are threatened!

45 replies »

  1. Many thanks for this informative and relevant information, I will be a little less anxious in future, when on ‘spider duty’ around the appartment.

  2. Dear Ralph, I have just read your piece on spiders and found it very positive, which is refreshing when it comes to most comment on these creatures. You might want to change your opening line on the widow spiders where you say they are the “most common spiders in the world”, whereas you probably meant to say the most commonly known of the venemous spiders. I’m writing to let you and your readers know that I have just published a volume on the topic called 60 Cypriot Spiders, in which I give basic information on the cypriot fauna, deal with folklore, discuss aspects of spider biology and behaviour etc. Perhaps your readers would find it useful, it is also a field guide to 60 common species including of course the more venemous types.
    The book is availble at select stores in the south from this week,and I will try to place it with a book shop in the north soon.
    I hope you don’t mind my using your site for this purpose. keep on promoting the truth about spiders and how extraordinary they are.

    best wishes
    Duncan McCowan.

    • Hello Duncan, thank you very much for your interesting comment! Yes, I will change the line on the widow spiders as you suggested. Regarding your book and the stores you could sell it in Northern Cyprus we suggest to contact the Bestseller Bookshops in Alsancak and Karakum and also The Old Round Tower in Kyrenia because they already stock very interesting books. Contact can be made with them on Facebook. Regards Ralph and the cyprusscene-team

      • Hello Duncan,

        Thanks for your information and a thought occurs to me. When you have made your arrangements to have your books distributed here in North Cyprus perhaps you would like to send us a introductory article with perhaps a few pictures and we can publish this across our community sharing web sites including reference to you chosen distribution outlets.

        If this proposal is of interest please contact Ralph or I (Chris Elliott) by leaving a message on our “about cyprusscene” page.

  3. Thankyou Ralph and Chris for the helpful information. I will certainly see about getting the book into the stores you mention. As far as supplying your site with articles and promotional material is concerned, I will forward something soon. Thanks again.

    Best wishes
    Duncan.

  4. Hi there, we are going on holiday to Kyrenia in a few weeks, are there many spiders there do you know? Thanks.

    • Hi Sam, as Kyrenia is a busy city, the big spiders should avoid it. They are more to be found in the natural areas. But do not be afraid, as I wrote in my article, they are not aggressive, they only defend themselves when you threaten them.

  5. Haha, I like your comment about staying in a hotel until the spider leaves your home on its own if you are too afraid to try and move it yourself. We have just returned from a wonderful holiday in Cyprus where we came across a tarantula in our room on our first night! It was quite amazing to come across it to say the least and completely unexpected. Once I had removed it using the method you suggest, ie: glass and card, it was check the bed sheets every night from then. It made for a more interesting stay! 😀

    • Thanks god, Andrew, you have kept the nerves and saved the creature, chapeau!By the way, we have so many readers in the last few weeks reading the “spiders” article, how did you come across this post on the internet? Was it just by chance, a search engine or a recommendation?

  6. I’m on holiday in Cyprus and today visited ruins of Salamis in Famagusta. I came across a shed of snake’s skin ( around 1.5 m long, probably Montpelier’s or large whip’s but not sure, took a picture of it though ). Since then been researching stuff about wild nature in Cyprus and found your blog about snakes and spiders very interesting and relevant. Thanks! As a matter of fact I saw an European tarantula on the beach last year (on the above picture looked exactly the same ) . A guy took his sandal off and carried it over on it towards the bushes growing behind the fence surrounding the Ghost City.
    : )

  7. tfrsecretary, Hello, Very interesting article.I live in Avgorou beside a potato farm. In the corners of our fence we have these little golf balls and regularly see the Brown Widow Spiders and been bitten a few times by them as they hide everywhere, sometimes it takes a fortnight for the inflammation to go away even after treating the bite straight away.Their baby spiders give a good nip too. They are an off white when they hatch.

  8. tfrsecretary -> Please add in your List the Middle Eastern Loxosceles Species (in america they have a similar one called Brown Recluse – Loxosceles Reclusa). The one we have in Cyprus is possibly the LOXOSCELES RUFESCENS species that is found in many other Mediterranean Countries. This is the only other spider considered dangerous in Cyprus along with the Brown widow that you have already mentioned. They can cause dangerous Necrotic Wound Bites that will take forever to heal and may require plastic surgeon to fix! i have identified many of those small brown spiders in Nicosia and Kakopetria (up in Troodos Mountains area). So far no one ever claim to detect those spiders in Cyprus, but i believe they are plenty of them in the Island!
    To identify them is very easy if you spot the Violin Shape in the cephalothorax part of their body. Also if you have good vision you can notice that they have 6 Eyes instead of the common 8 eyes that most other species have!

  9. Thanks for the article. Found a huge tarantula spider this morning inside the house behind a pile of clothes. They are timid as you say & harmless though I was not going to play with the thing !
    Got the ‘monster’ inside a jar & took it outside to the tool shed. I have never killed spiders but needed to read your article that I was doing the right thing putting it outside. Not so sure the property owner will believe me when I tell him, he was extremely puzzled when I told him about a giant brown cockroach that had got inside two nites running. He had never seen one on his property in ten years !

  10. we shall be at the ship hotel in september for the second time this year (love the ship and n.cyprus) haven’t seen a spider and do not want to!!Its no use people telling me that they are more scared of me than I am of them. They TERRIFY me and my OH.

    • Dear Betty, spiders are usually not seen in hotels and other busy places because they are shy creatures. And in North Cyprus bites of spiders are very rare, they mostly occur when e.g. gardening or collecting herbs in the nature. So, don´t panic and enjoy your holiday over here!

  11. Just came across this page while browsing for something else very informative I would also like to plug Duncan’s book mentioned above. For anyone interested in spiders in Cyprus it is an excellent read – i will be rbinging it with me on my next trip and just hope I will be there at a good time of year for spider hunting, there are lots more i want to find yet. (and photograph)

    • just when I had forgotten about spiders its mentioned again!! We will be at the Ship hotel tomorrow and I shall get Waid to check our room for visitors. I know spiders in hotels are very rare but it will be my luck for them to visit the hotel!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Have a beautiful holiday at The Ship and watch out for your 8-legged friends… If you see one in your room, go for a drink at the pool bar and let your husband/partner sort it out (not killing it!)

    • You seem to attract them, Betty Miles! But as long they are on the grounds and not on the menu everything is fine…! Its surely not the fault of the restaurant and hopefully nobody killed the creature!

  12. My apologies…. Stupid first reaction… Just killed a tarantula male after my wife and kids were scared on the terrasse of our hotel’s room. We were absolutely unaware of the presence of such species in Cyprus and – although not really scared myself – quitte astonished still. The spider was resting in the shadow of a towel on a chair and my wife almost got a hart attack while removing the towel. Surprising to find It in a clean terrasse, pretty “closed”, in the first floor of a nice hotel in Ayia Napa. Sorry again, I only found out about the tarantula being present in Cyprus through your site and others – It happened on the departure day after 9 days in the country.

  13. I’ve only just seen this. I was about to say you omitted the brown recluse (small but far more dangerous than most others mentioned) however, I see Marinos Michael has brought it to your attention.

    I was bitten by one of these on the palm of my hand, a few years ago, down at Larnaca salt lake. What started out as a small white spot, within 12 hours had evolved into a raging volcano and indescribable pain. By the following morning, my hand looked like a rubber glove that had been inflated and the swelling extended right up to my elbow. I was two days in hospital on a drip and given morphine for the pain, which incidentally did not alleviate it, then I transferred to a private clinic where I spent 16 days attending daily and where, fortunately, a marvellous doctor knew just what it was and how to deal with it. It is an enzyme they inject, that liquefies flesh and just carries on working long after the bite, that causes the problem. Any infection is more likely to be caused by whatever rotten stuff it had been eating before it got stuck into you.

    I was very lucky not to lose any fingers. And they were unable to give me any pain relief whilst cutting out this necrosis daily, saying it would interfere with my body naturally fighting and healing.

    I was told at the time it is the most dangerous spider in Cyprus and then later told it is one of the most dangerous spiders in the world. I can only say I was very glad I didn’t google any of this until I was well on the mend, I think I would’ve died of fright had I done so!

    I’ve been bitten by spiders before and it was no worse than one or two itchy red painful spots.

    I never saw the brown recluse, I had jumped across a small ditch and grabbed onto the undergrowth to steady myself and that’s when it happened. The doctor knew what it was by the appearance of the bite and the rapid worsening and progression of it. If you google brown recluse you will see exactly what I mean!

    • Thanks for this detailed comment. Seems you had really bad luck, P Brambley, being bitten by a Brown Recluse spider in Cyprus, because these species normally only occurs in North America. But as you are the second reader mentioning this spider, I will try to track this.

      • P Brambley and tfsecretary as i noted above in my comment the species in Cyprus is not called Brown Recluse but Mediterranean Recluse but they are exactly identical with the same venom. The only difference is in their reproductive organs and only with a microscope you can see the differences from the Brown Recluse of USA. See below my original comment: “Please add in your List the Middle Eastern Loxosceles Species (in america they have a similar one called Brown Recluse – Loxosceles Reclusa). The one we have in Cyprus is possibly the LOXOSCELES RUFESCENS species that is found in many other Mediterranean Countries.”

        Thank you for your detailed description of what happened. I have mentioned this spider species to the entomology department of Cyprus to confirm if they know about it and they made fun of confirming their ignorance of this danger we have on the island. Also they ridiculed me on the existence of the Brown Widow as well which also exists in Cyprus.

      • They also hide in T-Shirts you throw on the floor! I was in US for 7 years studying and we had them there (obviously they were the Brown Recluse Ones), i learned to be as tidy as possible because If a house is infested with these its really hard to get rid of Them! Especially in US where their houses are based in Plaster Boards and Wood they can hide everywhere and lay eggs. Houses there can have thousands of them inside. In Cyprus also is hard to get rid of them due to the way they hide, but its much easier compared to the US houses due to the construction type of our houses.

        Please note that they are not aggressive and they prefer to hide. Bites in around 99% of the cases happen if they crawl inside your bed sheets / clothing / shoes and they had to bite you because of the pressure against your skin

        Another point to note is that their venom does not have an antidote. Search for the term: toxin Protein sphingomyelinase D (SMaseD)

        Due to recent research by Arizona University they way to approach on finding an antidote has changed for these spiders. See Article here:
        https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130829214742.htm

        They are only active from March to October and they get to adulthood in 1 to 2 years. Their fangs are very small and very unlikely that they will inflict a bit when not adults.

        They may live 2-4 years as adults. Females can produce 2-5 egg cases during this time (two or three is most common) and each may contain 20-50 spiderlings.

        They can last without food/water for over a year! so even if you starve them (control coach roaches etc in your house they can still survive!)

        Methods of eliminating them is by finding their nests and kill the eggs and them inside. Very hard to find. Look in corners of the walls (there is also another spider also brown in color which builds similar web homes and it may be hard to distinguish between the two)

        Sticky traps for spiders and other insects, available at most hardware and garden stores, work well to trap recluse spiders. They may not significantly reduce the numbers, but definitely help, and are a great way to detect and monitor the spider populations. In Cyprus particularly effective and very cheap are these Yellow Sticky Thingies you hang for controlling Flys. They are around 1-2 euro for a 10 pack and these you can cut in half and place around your house. I wish there was a way to post a picture here to show you which ones to get.

        And trust me these spiders are located all over Cyprus i found them from the villages of Troodos mountain to Nicosia / Pafos and Limassol.

        if you need any further info about them do not hesitate to contact me, i even captured some live specimens to take to the authorities for further investigation but they kindly declined 😛

      • Thank you, Marinos Michael, for this very detailed and precise description of these spiders in Cyprus. This will help our readership definitely. By the way, my spiders-article is the most read one on this website with more than 30 thousand reads until today.

      • Yes indeed! I’d never heard of them. In the US they are also called ‘fiddle backs’ because of the marking on the back. I had to look them up after being told. But if you google ‘Cyprus Brown Recluse’ you will see they have been identified over here for some years.

        They aren’t lying in wait for us! The clue is in the name – they are reclusive. I just happened to grab onto one! I was in bandages for almost 3 weeks. And in tears every day as the doc worked with a magnifying glass, scalpels and tiny scissors to keep cutting away every speck of necrosis. He drew a dotted line around the original site of the bite so that daily he could check if it was getting bigger or smaller. It extended more than halfway across my palm before it started to get smaller. He called other docs at the clinic in to observe – he said it might be the only time they ever see one.

        Oddly enough, when I was first taken to A&E (late in the day it happened – on a Sat night of course – don’t all disasters occur when nowhere is open?) it was some wizened ancient looking old Cypriot men who were shouting about it and barged through and demanded someone see me immediately as (apparently) time was of the essence. The only word I understood from their ranting was ‘arachnid’. My son is a keen angler and it was him who, having seen it on Skype said ‘get to the hospital at once mum – that’s a spider bite and at the speed with which it is worsening and by the looks of it – a really bad one’.

        They had me in for the two nights and kept just changing drip bags (antibios) and giving pain killing jabs. My own doc when I got to him on the Monday was none too pleased with how they handled it saying that there is a saying in the medical profession ‘where there is poison cut it out’ or words to that effect. A&E staff hadn’t even TOUCHED the wound, nor cleaned it nor dressed it. Gave me paper towel to hold under it (it was by then oozing!) they said you have to give the ABs time to work and go home and return the next day if no better. My doc said the antibios are only good for any associated infection – it is the necrosis that the enzyme that the spider injects needs to be dealt with.

        I have to smile when told I am ‘lucky’ as it seems an odd word to use when talking about being bitten by a spider that even most Cypriots had never heard of and didn’t know existed in Cyprus! However, having seen photos of the damage caused by these spiders – yes I suppose I was ‘lucky’ compared to some – seems common for them to hide in boots and shoes.

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