A tarantula bite will kill you

Has anyone ever died from a tarantula bite?

There is at least one quote in PubMed that reports death. 1 I was unable to load the article, but after reviewing the relevant literature on tarantula bites, it appears that a bite often causes localized necrotic ulcers 2, which, while not normally fatal, can lead to infection, burns, and death if left untreated.

Some quick searches of newspaper archives reveal more anecdotal evidence. The Arizona Daily Citizen of September 14, 1901 reports:

The bite of a small tarantula yesterday afternoon in this house in Evergreen led to the death of Gottlieb Hassler, a pioneer in this valley. Last Wednesday, Haler went to the barn of his ranch to feed his horses. While he was getting some hay, a tarantula the size of a pigeon's egg with black hair fell on his arm and bit him. Though not particularly painful, the bite was soon followed by swelling of the arm to double its normal size.

A doctor was called and the wound cauterized, but the action was too late to prevent blood poisoning. Hasler quickly got worse and died in terrible agony yesterday afternoon.

I would like to point out that, in this context, it is likely that the newspapers use the word tarantula to refer to a wide variety of spiders. However, the death reports are frequent enough in the early literature. In the words of a headline of the Philadelphia Inquirer of July 17, 1899: "Bitten by a tarantula, death probably lurked in a bunch of bananas."

  1. Banerjee, K, R Banerjee, AK Mukherjee and D Ghosh. "Tarantula bite leads to death and gangrene." Indian Journal of Dermatology , Venereology and Leprology 63, No. 2 (April 1997): 125-126.
  2. See, for example, Isbister, Geoffrey K, and Hui Wen Fan. "Spider Bite." Lancet 378, no. 9808 (December 10, 2011): 2039-2047. doi: 10.1016 / S0140-6736 (10) 62230-1.


Keep in mind that apparently the death was due not to the bite itself, but to infection of the wound ... The venom of the tarantula family is generally not fatal to humans (although, of course, allergic reactions can vary in degrees).