How to be arachnophobic in South America?
February 21, 2010 9:50 PM   Subscribe

What should I know (I'm arachnophobic) about the fauna of South America before taking my first trip to the continent?

I'm planning a vacation right now: to spend the winter months of 2010 (June-August) in Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia.

Today I found out about the Brazilian Wandering Spider... And I happen to be deathly afraid of spiders. How likely am I to encounter one of these? How deadly are they, really? Where do they like to hang out? Basically, I'd just like to know everything relevant about this sucker because for some reason, this particular thing is making me really nervous about this trip. I know it's completely irrational but please, humor me.
posted by barbudo to Pets & Animals (3 answers total)
They are rainforest creatures, so unless you are hanging out in the middle of the rainforest at night (not likely), you probably would not encounter one. In the daytime they hide under logs, and apparently also prefer banana plants and bromeliads. You shouldn't be lifting up logs, etc. anyway, unless you are looking for something of that sort.

I have only encountered a member of the Phoneutria genus once in many trips down there, and it was in an ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. The hotel rooms didn't have doors or screens, so I wasn't really surprised.

The venom is a neurotoxin, and a bite would really, really, really hurt, but I doubt that it would be lethal (unless it was a child, elderly person, or immunocompromised individual).

I'm an entomologist-this stuff doesn't bother me (I won't bring up my tarantula collection, lol). I don't think it's an issue. If you are planning on hanging out on banana plantations, you may have slightly better odds. Otherwise, not likely.
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:16 PM on February 21, 2010

You will probably see spiders at some point, probably not the brazilian wandering spider. I realize fears like this aren't really rational and that you can't just be talked out of it, but consider the following: spiders are very small animals that have not an ounce, not a gram of maliciousness in them. They're just trying to make their spidery way in this world. They really, honestly don't want to hurt you, and would prefer to avoid you entirely, because to them you're a MOUNTAIN WITH LEGS.

So chill, yo. If you see a spider, just think, Oh, he's going to his kid's clarinet recital, and watch him dash across the floor and think about what a responsible father he is.
posted by clockzero at 10:31 PM on February 21, 2010 [11 favorites]

Not about Brazil, but germane none the less: I was arachnophobic till my honeymoon in Nevis. My wife and I thought we'd take a hike in the rainforest without quite realizing what we were getting into. A hurricane had ripped through a few months prior so everything was overgrown and we had to do a fair amount of bushwhacking to hike the trail. I took the lead position to clear the way, and every minute or two found myself staring at the most colorful spiders I've ever seen who looked WAY more badass than the ones back home. Scary, right?

clockzero's dead on though. These guys just want to catch an insect, not you. And the odds of seeing one that can kill you are minuscule, let alone that you'll piss them off enough to get to that point in the first place. I made it through the hike and am oddly cool with spiders now. I'm not exactly going to go out and get one as a pet though... endaxi.

Just in case others end up in my situation, here's what worked for us. Before you go hiking find a good, light staff, tree limb, etc. and take that with you. As you're hiking wave it up and down in front of you to clear the spider webs. When you're headed straight into thick overgrowth (nightmares...) do your web sweeps and then hold it vertical as far out from your body as possible and push through till it's time for another sweep. Don't sit or touch anything unnecessarily and yeah, don't be in there at night.

Also check for any recent hurricanes and trail quality, and don't go if you've got mold allergies. *grumble*
posted by jwells at 5:22 AM on February 22, 2010

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