Poisonous Versus Venomous

One of the most common questions I receive about various spiders and scorpions is whether or not the species is poisonous.

Here’s the good news: I’m not aware of any spider or scorpion that is poisonous.

The bad news: plenty of spiders and scorpions are venomous.

Animals that deliver toxins via fangs or stingers are considered venomous, while organisms that deliver toxins when they are consumed or touched are considered poisonous.

Some mushrooms and berries are poisonous, but brown recluse spiders, black widow spiders and rattlesnakes are venomous.

With arthropods like spiders and insects, there are two types of venom. They are called Neurotoxic and Cytotoxic.

Neurotoxic venom disrupts proper functioning of developing and mature nerve cells. You’ll see this type of venom in Black widow spiders (and others in the genus Latrodectus), as well as some scorpions and insects.

Cytotoxic venom works by destroying cell tissue, which can lead to tissue death. Brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) possess this type of venom.

In the case of spider bites, Neurotoxic venom works MUCH faster than Cytotoxic.

Some people think I’m crazy for saying this, but if I had to choose between being bitten by a Brown recluse spider or a Black widow, I’d prefer the Brown recluse any day.

If left untreated for weeks, a Brown recluse spider bite could lead to nasty ulcers, but a Black widow spider bite could cause muscle spasms or (in rare cases) seizures in about… fifteen freaking minutes!

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