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!).
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
Possibly 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 venomous 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.
2. European Tarantula
These 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.
3. Wolf Spider
Also 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
Common 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 :-)))
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!