Imagine the scene, you’re just telling your friends around the dinner table about your upcoming trip to Turkey when one of them announces, ‘I wouldn’t go there, one of our friends ended up in hospital after being bitten by a spider.’
Fabrication or fact? Well if you’re an arachnophobe, Turkey isn’t maybe the best place for a holiday, added to which, they’ve also got poisonous centipedes and scorpions!
Time now for the detail…
The Journal of Applied Biological Sciences tell us that there are at least ten dangerous spiders in Turkey although most of them are found far from any areas frequented by tourists – the south eastern region in particular. Some bites cause fever, partial paralysis and heart problems, others cause necrosis – the death and rotting of your flesh! Here are some of the ones to look out for:
Black Widow Spider
Commonplace across the world, having the widest geographical spread of any spider, these are instantly recognisable by their 1.5cm glossy black bodies with the tell-tale red mark on the abdomen. Just to confuse us, there are false widow spiders but don’t take any risks.
Few tourists should find themselves rooting around in dark cellars, garages or sheds but that’s where you’re most likely to find them. The bite is rarely fatal unless you have underlying health problems but you’re likely to endure fever, intense pain around the bite site which spreads, muscle cramp in your abdomen, irregular heart rates and breathing difficulties. For most, the symptoms abate without any lasting damage but if worried, see a doctor.
Another commonly found spider which is also known as the Mediterranean Recluse Spider which lives in similar conditions to the Black Widow. More typical of the Americas where it accounts for over 80% of bites, it is a hunter rather than a web spinning spider. Very aggressive, its bite causes the death of tissue in the region of the bite and often gangrene can set in which, in extreme cases, has led to loss of limbs and even death!
Yellow Sac Spiders
Three members of this venomous family of spiders are found in Turkey. They look evil so there’s every chance you’ll stay away and they have a yellowish hairy body with strong jaw parts able to inflict a serious puncture wound. Little is proven about the effect of their toxin but it’s believed to be necrotic – flesh eating to the dramatic! They’re often found in fallen leaves so unless you’re going to be doing some gardening or rolling around in fallen leaves, you should be safe. That is unless you come across the ‘punctorium’ subspecies which is reputedly the most dangerous and loves to live in houses.
These are given a higher fear rating because of their appearance and aren’t really true tarantulas. Better known as the wolf spider they can give a nasty nip which isn’t poisonous but which can cause swelling and irritation. They tend to bite only when provoked though. It’s said that a more effective means of defence from the spider is its ability to fire stiff hairs from its abdomen at an attacker which lodge in the skin causing irritation similar to a nettle rash.
A spider without a common name, this one is an attractive spider that often encourages a close look. Get bitten by one and you can suffer necrosis and gangrene.
As you might expect, this one lives in and around fresh water and is a hunter taking larvae, tadpoles and even sometimes small fry. It’s unlikely you’ll get close enough to it to encourage a bite but if you’re unlucky enough, you’ll get a swelling around the bite site as well as fever, breathing problems and an irregular heartbeat pattern.
No prizes for guessing the appearance of this spider. Its body is red with black spots and it looks like a small tarantula with its thick hairy legs. The warning colours tell you to keep away and you’d be right. It can be aggressive and its bite is like a wasp sting but with more enduring pain. It’s not fatal but it is unpleasant. You’ll be surprised to hear that they live in England too with a small endangered colony found in Wareham in Dorset.
These belong to the jumping spiders and Phidippus has some of the largest examples in the family. Their bites cause what is known as cutaneous reactions – in other words, necrosis and gangrene through their toxins killing skin cells in the epidermis. Little can be as frightening as seeing a startled one jump at you, especially your face. They are found in many habitats including undergrowth, rock crevices and sandy soil and are best avoided where possible.
The Segestria Spider
This spider can be quite dangerous due to the action of its toxin which reduces sodium levels in the human body and has been known to kill a human in under three minutes. They grow up to an inch in length and their bite causes lasting pain. Nocturnal, they hunt other insects in woodland and organic material. Whilst originating in the eastern part of Turkey, they have spread widely and have been found in several locations in the UK including Exeter Cathedral.
Although spider venom has been shown to be many times more powerful than snake venom, the inefficient injection mechanism in spiders together with the very small amount of venom injected means that bites are rarely fatal from the bite itself and most deaths occur from complications from the symptoms.
Most websites on Turkish spiders will tell you that few of the dangerous ones are likely to be encountered on your holidays. Most are found in inhospitable locations in the east of the country, far from tourist destinations and a cared for holiday property need hold no fears for the casual traveller.
If bitten, it helps to identify or capture the spider concerned before heading to a doctor or hospital. You’ll find that pharmacies are often able to help with advice and medication. So now you’re reassured about the spiders, all you have to worry about are the centipedes and scorpions, neither of which should prevent your visiting this cultural country, so book car hire in Turkey
with Rhino and enjoy!
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