TULSA — What could be one of the most lethal spiders, a Brazilian wandering spider made its way to a Tulsa grocery store Sunday. It was destroyed Wednesday by a University of Tulsa biologist. The spider was found in a shipment of bananas at Whole Foods, where employees trapped it in a plastic salad container before handing it over to Terry Childs, director of animal facilities at TU. Childs said Wednesday evening he decided to destroy the spider at the urging of a TU administrator. "It was just a safety decision,” he said. He said taking the spider to another university for study would be hard and that not much can be determined from one spider. Native to South America, the Brazilian wandering spider is rarely found as far north as Oklahoma. Its venom can kill a person within half an hour, and the antivenin is unlikely to be available near Tulsa, Childs said. However, a curator of aquariums and herpetology at the Tulsa Zoo said he believes the spider was misidentified. Barry Downer hadn’t examined the spider but based his opinion on video he had seen. He also disagreed with how serious the spider’s bite would be. "Even if it were that particular species, it would not be a life-threatening bite unless you were a child or an immunosuppressed adult,” Downer said. Childs said he cross-referenced several sources when examining the spider and thinks he is correct in saying it is the Brazilian wandering spider, also known as a banana spider.
Death in 25 minutesBrazilian wandering spiders are not the most venomous species of spider, but they cause about five recorded deaths a year, making them extremely lethal, Childs said. "I’m not joking here; if you get bitten by this spider, if you get envenomation, you’re going to die within 25 minutes,” he said. The species is documented as being aggressive, Childs said. "It’s the fastest spider I’ve ever seen,” he said. The spider, a young female, was shy of the spotlight Wednesday, staying tucked into a corner of its cage. It had a leg length of less than 1½ inches, but Childs said it could have grown to a legspan of about 5 inches. Childs said he named the spider Carla, after his "dear wife.” It was kept company in his office by a scorpion, several fish and a tarantula named Cuddles. "I enjoy animals that are scary, animals that scare people,” he said. "I’m weird like that.” A regional spokeswoman for Whole Foods said the chain had never experienced a similar situation. "The incident is an extremely rare circumstance,” Laura Zappi said. Childs said such an event can occur at any store receiving products from other countries. He was quick to praise Whole Foods and its employees for vigilance and proper handling of the situation.