This slice of Caribbean heaven may be an ideal place for a week lounging on the beach, but don’t expect everything to be picture-perfect! Like a lot of countries in the Americas, Puerto Rico has its fair share of creepy crawlies that has sent shivers down many a traveler’s spine.
Spiders in Puerto Rico are something you can expect while you’re lounging beneath palm trees or trekking through nature reserves. Puerto Rico has six major spider species that can be found in various places throughout the island.
Thankfully, most aren’t venomous… but a few have painful bites, and they may pop up when you least expect them! We’re going to share these common spider species so you know what to look out for on your next holiday to this gorgeous sun-drenched isle.
Banana Spider (nephila clavipes)
These intricate and colorful creatures are known for the elaborate webs they spin (they also go by the name ’golden silk orb-weaver’), as well as their colorful bodies and striped legs. They are also easy to recognize by the faint white spots on their abdomens.
There are two varieties of banana spiders, but they are vastly different – the South American phoneutria and the North American nephila clavipes. The latter species is the one found in Puerto Rico. It has a reasonably large leg span (around 5 inches) and is typically found outdoors in gardens, trees, and walkways.
Unlike their South American counterpart, these banana spiders have venom with a very mild potency. Their bite is mostly harmless to humans – at worst, they leave a mark that can irritate skin and potentially cause an allergic reaction.
Tent Cobweb Weaver (Tidarren sisyphoides)
The Tent Cobweb Weaver is part of the Theridiidae family of spiders, and they are primarily found in Puerto Rico, Peru, Cuba, Haiti, and some southern states in the US. These spiders typically live outdoors, in gardens, or on walls and cliff faces. Puerto Rican varieties are likely to be a tan or light brown color ranging toward a deeper orange shade, with dark bands around their legs.
Since they are not distributed widely in the world, not a lot is known about the tent cobweb weaver. These spiders are believed to be harmless to humans, with no recorded hospitalizations as a result of their bite.
Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa)
Also known as fiddle-back or violin spiders, the brown recluse is the best known of all 100 of the recluse species. They get their name from their appearance and nature – recluse spiders prefer seclusion and tend to live in dark, sheltered indoor or outdoor spaces that are rarely disturbed by humans. Unsurprisingly, most brown recluses have brown coloring in varying shades – but in rare cases, they can appear dark yellow.
The bite of a brown recluse is very painful and highly venomous, but its effects vary. If treated early in adults it may have very little effect beyond pain, stinging, and blistering. However, its venom is highly toxic to children and can be lethal. More serious side effects can include severe pain, muscle stiffness and cramping, fever, vomiting, headaches, and in some cases seizure and coma. If bitten, you should seek out immediate medical attention.
The good news is that sightings of these spiders in Puerto Rico are uncommon, and as non-aggressive spiders, they are only likely to bite out of self-defense – most often when they are found in clothing and pressed against human skin. This is why it’s important to remember is that these spiders are found both inside and outside, and can turn up in closets, cupboards, storage boxes, clothing, and more.
The Huntsman (Sparassidae)
These eight-eyed spiders have a rather formidable name – the huntsman spider earned this moniker for its unusual speed and its habit of tracking down prey instead of luring them into webs and burrows. You can identify the huntsman by their flat, furry bodies and long legs that can span as much as 6 inches on average. In some cases, the huntsman leg span can reach over 7 inches and even as high as 12 inches.
These spiders can be observed in Puerto Rico and other countries in the Mediterranean basin, but they are most commonly found in Australia, parts of Asia, and Africa.
Huntsman spiders are non-aggressive toward humans, and bites from this species are not common. Furthermore, their bites are not considered venomous enough to be dangerous, and medical attention is usually unnecessary. Though their bites are typically not dangerous, they can be very painful and do come with a risk of side effects, including swelling, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and heart palpitations.
Puerto Rican Brown Tarantula
Here we have a spider that is actually native Puerto Rico (and also found sparsely in Cuba and the US Virgin Islands): the common Puerto Rican brown tarantula. Before you start shuddering, you’ll be relieved to know that these tarantulae are relatively small, coming in at approximately 3.5-5 inches long. They are brown and hairy and typically dwell outdoors in burrows that they dig themselves.
The Puerto Rican tarantula is known for their nocturnal nature – they only hunt for prey at night, meaning you’re unlikely to run into one of these creepy-crawlies unless you’re exploring the island after dark, particularly in tropical rainforests. Their prey tends to be insects and very small animals such as frogs or mice.
It’s important to remember that even though this brown tarantula does bite, its bite is harmless to humans. At most, it will feel like a mild bee sting.
The Black Widow (Latrodectus mactans)
The famous black widow, with its triangular crimson-red markings, is also a species to be aware of while traveling in Puerto Rico. They are typically found indoors in dark, dry spaces, and have been known to attack humans if they feel threatened.
The black widow has an extremely potent neurotoxic venom that can cause symptoms within 30 minutes of being bitten. Effects can vary, and while some people may be minimally affected others may experience symptoms including nausea, dizziness, vomiting, muscle spasms, respiratory issues, and severe pain. Death is very rare, but it can be a risk for children and the elderly.
The presence of black widows in Puerto Rico may alarm potential visitors to the island, but these spiders are very rarely seen here – in fact, most of them are stowaways that cannot thrive in the Puerto Rican climate. They have an even smaller presence than the brown recluse, and it is extremely unlikely that you’ll encounter one on your trip.
Honorary Mention: The Cave Spider or Whip Spider
The cave spider (also known as a whip spider) is an honorary mention on this list of spiders in Puerto Rico because it isn’t technically a spider. As much as it might look like one, it’s actually a tailless whip scorpion.
Though they aren’t spiders, some people in Puerto Rico may refer to them as cave spiders, and it’s a good idea to be aware of them while you’re traveling. That being said, the cave spider isn’t nearly as scary as it looks – it’s completely harmless to humans. They live in tree trunks, holes, under bark, and in some animal burrows
Are spiders in Puerto Rico venomous?
Yes, there are venomous spiders in Puerto Rico. Venomous spiders include the banana spider, the brown recluse, and the black widow, though only the latter two are venomous enough to be dangerous to humans.
What is the most dangerous spider in Puerto Rico?
Without a doubt, the most dangerous spider in Puerto Rico is the brown recluse spider. Aside from the black widow, which is so uncommon as to be a non-issue for travelers, the brown recluse is the only spider on the island that can cause serious pain, harm, and even death in humans. With the exception of the Puerto Rican racer snake, the brown recluse may be the most dangerous insect or animal on the island.
What is the largest spider in Puerto Rico?
The largest spider found in Puerto Rico is the huntsman spider, which has an average leg span of six inches. In some cases, the huntsman can grow to between 7-12 inches, though these cases are usually found in Australia and Laos, and would be very rare in Puerto Rico. Otherwise, spiders on this island tend to be of average size.