Poisonous Thorn Finger Spider: How Dangerous Is A Bite?

The thorn finger spider is known as one of the few poisonous spiders in German-speaking countries. How a bite of the spider affects the human body, you will learn in this article.

To the point

  • Thornfingers are a genus of spiders that are not deadly to humans
  • Bites are said to hurt like a wasp sting according to field reports
  • main symptom is intense swelling of the affected limb or body part
  • other symptoms such as fever, dizziness or vomiting are possible and disappear with the bite pain after about 24 to 72 hours
  • after an incident: stay calm and consult a doctor

Thornfinger in portrait
The thornfinger spider is the most venomous in comparison to the other venomous spiders in the German-speaking area. The type species of the genus is considered to be the nurse thornfinger (Cheiracanthium punctorium), whose characteristics are used as recognition material for the other species. Thorn-fingered spiders are especially easy to recognize by their large, orange-red jaw claws, which, along with the black venomous claws, immediately catch the eye. Many species are strong enough to penetrate the skin of an adult human regardless of body location. In German-speaking countries, only the nurse thorn finger can do this. Other taxa do not succeed in this. For this reason, it is capable of injecting venom in larger quantities. Besides the biting tools, spiders of the genus can be recognized by the following characteristics:

  • Size: up to 150 mm
  • females larger than males
  • long legs
  • legs yellow-brownish in color, black at the “foot
  • small body in front
  • color: orange-red
  • abdomen long
  • color: yellow to olive green
  • tip spot (light) in females
  • disappears after egg laying
  • males carry middle band (green-grey)

By size alone they can be distinguished from other spider species in Central Europe.

Note: It is rare that the spiders bite overnight when they stray into homes. If you feel a stinging pain and are sure it cannot be a wasp or similar animal, you should assume Cheiracanthium.

The thorn finger spider is considered poisonous and for this reason a bite should be avoided as much as possible. The venom is made up of several components with the following effects:

tissue damaging
blood damaging
nerve toxins
This mix leads to a variety of symptoms that can vary in severity depending on the health of the affected person. The pain following a spider bite from thorn fingers is said to resemble a wasp sting, but is significantly more unpleasant. This is followed by severe swelling that affects either the bitten body part or the entire limb. Other symptoms include:

Nausea to vomiting
Circulatory failure
Enlargement of lymph nodes

Symptoms subside after one to three days, but the bite site may remain red and irritated for much longer. As venomous as the thorn finger spider is, it is not really dangerous. There are no reports of secondary damage from the spider except for one case of necrosis at the bite site. Fatalities are also not known. However, a greater danger is for allergy sufferers, sensitive and sick people. In these, bites can have a much more intense effect, which intensifies the symptoms. Many allergy sufferers suffer from the bites, for example, heart palpitations.

Bite: Measures
Since thornfingers are not dangerous to humans across the board, you should still not let bites go unnoticed. It is advisable to remain calm and not to try to cool or otherwise treat the bite wound. It is very important not to scratch, otherwise it could lead to infection by bacteria. If an allergic reaction occurs, you should go to the emergency room or call an ambulance. Depending on the intensity of the allergy, symptoms can be much more severe and should be treated as soon as possible.

Tip: How pets react to bites from the thorny finger has not been carried out, but similar symptoms can be assumed. For this reason, especially pets such as cats, rodents or small dogs with lower body mass should be taken to a veterinarian immediately to prevent possible secondary damage.

Frequently asked questions

Are there other spider species in Central Europe that are poisonous to humans?

Central Europe is not known for many poisonous spiders, but two in particular can be found besides the nurse thorn finger: cross spiders (Araneus) and the water spider (Argyroneta aquatica). The cross spiders, like the water spider, are not dangerous to humans because their mouthparts can penetrate only the thinnest parts of the skin, mainly in children. The venom quantity and effect is comparable to bee stings. The bite site itches and is locally paralyzed for a short time. Cooling compresses relieve the symptoms.

Where is the thorn finger spider most often found?

If you want to avoid the thorn finger spider as effectively as possible, you should avoid their habitat. They prefer to inhabit dry locations, especially open biotopes with tall grasses and shrubs, as these are ideal for the animals’ breeding webs. Railroad tracks, roadsides, ditches, and even gardens are equally common sites selected. Among the spiders’ favorite plants is land riding grass (Calamagrostis epigejos), which is frequently occupied.

How can you avoid a spider bite?

When you are in the spider’s habitat it is recommended to wear long clothing and avoid the vicinity of the clearly visible webs. Females bite in response to potential danger and therefore should not be irritated. Males, on the other hand, wander and stray into gardens for this reason. Wear sufficient clothing while gardening, especially when mowing.

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