The nickname “banana spider” is a term used both for spiders that look a bit like bananas and spiders that have been found in shipments of bananas. Some are harmless, and some are dangerous, but all have their own distinct look, making them easier to identify.
What Are Banana Spiders?
Banana spider is a term used for several species of spiders, most commonly Trichonephila clavipes (formerly known as Nephila clavipes), also called the golden silk orb-weaver. The nickname “banana spider” likely comes from their often yellow coloration and elongated abdomen. These spiders build large webs, often 3-6 feet long, out of golden silk. These webs are some of the strongest of any spiders'.
A few other spider species are called “banana spider,” often because they’re sometimes found in boxes of bananas. Other types of banana spiders may include:
- Brazilian wandering spiders (genus Phoneutria)
- Bromeliad spiders (genus Cupiennius)
- Hawaiian garden spider (Argiope appensa)
What Do Banana Spiders Look Like?
The various spiders that go by the name “banana spider” all look very different.
Golden silk orb weaver. Male and female Trichonephila clavipes spiders look very different from each other. The female banana spider size is about 1-3 inches, while the males are only about half an inch long. The females have elongated bodies with yellow spots on orange or tan bodies with brown- and orange-banded legs. The males are slender and dark brown.
Brazilian wandering spiders. There are several species within the genus Phoneutria, but many have the same characteristics. These spiders are large and brown with distinctive red jaws, usually with a leg span of 4-5 inches. Their strong legs allow them to move quickly.
Bromeliad spiders. Bromeliad spiders are also a type of wandering spider, and are sometimes mistaken for Brazilian wandering spiders. This is often due to the red fangs that both types of spiders have. Bromeliad spiders have small bodies, usually less than an inch long, but long, spindly legs. They come in a variety of oranges and grays.
Hawaiian garden spider. Like the golden silk orb weaver, females and males of the Argiope appensa look very different. Females can grow up to nearly two and a half inches in length and can be red, yellow, black, and white. Males, on the other hand, are usually only a quarter of the size of the females and are brown.
Where Do Banana Spiders Live?
Each type of banana spider has its own habitat.
Golden silk orb weaver. The Trichonephila clavipes spider is the only Trichonephila spider in the Western Hemisphere. It can be found in the U.S. in Florida up through North Carolina, in the West Indies, in Central America, and in South America as far south as Argentina.
Brazilian wandering spiders. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these spiders are found in Brazil, as well as elsewhere in South America and Central America. They prefer to walk, or “wander,” along the jungle floor. If there is no jungle, they hide in dark places during the day. This sometimes leads to people finding them in homes, cars, or places like log piles.
Bromeliad spiders. Like the Brazilian wandering spider, bromeliad spiders mainly live in Central and South America. They’ve also been found in the Caribbean in Haiti and Jamaica. Like other wandering spiders, bromeliad spiders don’t build webs, and instead hunt their prey.
Hawaiian garden spider. In the U.S., the Hawaiian garden spider only lives in Hawaii. The spider isn’t native to Hawaii, though. It was brought over from western Pacific countries like Taiwan and Guam. Despite this, the spider seems to thrive in the tropical Hawaiian climate.
Are Banana Spiders Venomous?
Some types of banana spiders are very venomous. Others, not so much.
Golden silk orb weaver. This spider rarely poses any dangers. It will only bite in self-defense if it’s being held or pinched. The bite will cause a little pain, less than a bee sting, and may cause some redness.
Brazilian wandering spiders. In 2007, the Guinness Book of World Records named the Brazilian wandering spider the most venomous animal. But the severity of the venom depends on which Phoneutria species bites you. Some species will cause a little pain, while others can cause excruciating pain. These spiders rarely kill, though, with only ten recorded deaths and only 2% of bites being serious enough to require antivenom.
Bromeliad spiders. Bromeliad spiders have red fangs like Brazilian wandering spiders, but their bite isn’t nearly as serious. Their bites can cause severe pain and numbness within the first ten or so minutes, but this usually fades after about a half an hour.
Hawaiian garden spider. The Hawaiian garden spider isn’t venomous to humans.
How to Get Rid of Banana Spiders
In most cases, unless you live in the tropics, you aren’t going to encounter banana spiders. If you happen to come across these spiders in your home, you can remove them like you would any other spiders. Some good ways to get rid of spiders include:
- Spider catchers and traps
- Spider poisons
- Spider repellent sprays
If you’re still dealing with spiders after trying these methods, you may need to contact a pest control specialist.
Are There Spiders in My Bananas?
For a few decades now, there have been urban legends going around that spiders were laying eggs in banana flowers, making for an unpleasant surprise when you peeled open a banana. This isn’t true.
What is true is that sometimes spiders end up in banana shipments. If you’re worried about this affecting you, carefully unload boxes of bananas and wear thick gloves.