Notes and Observations Regarding the Bite of Poecilotheria pederseni

By Ray Gabriel

Whilst feeding some spiders late at night I was accidentally bitten by a sub-adult, female Poecilotheria pederseni, which tried to escape from her container.  As I tried to replace the lid I trapped my little finger in the jar where I can only assume the specimen mistook my finger for a cricket.

I am a 39 year old male of average build and reasonable health.  I have no allergies, that I know of, but have had an allergic reaction to a previous spider bite (Steatoda grossa).  I had drunk around three pints of Guinness earlier that evening.  I have been diagnosed as Asthmatic, but have only ever had to use my inhaler 5-6 times in the 12+ years since my asthma was first diagnosed.

10th September
1:50am.  Bitten on the tip of my little finger on the left hand.  As an almost natural reaction, I squeezed my finger from the base to the tip, and forced some blood out of the holes made by the fangs, this I did three times.  In hind site this may have forced out some/most of the venom.

1:55am.  Tingling sensation in finger, feels hot (due to the squeezing?), tip swollen, numb and with slight reddening, only a shade or two darker than the finger next to it, not noticeably different.  The spider was captured and returned to her container and books containing information on spider bites were gathered, (there would be a good chance I would have more information than the people attending to me at the Hospital, as spider bites are a rare occurrence).  I then woke Lesley up to tell her the good news.

2:35am.  We set off to Hospital, just in case.

2:50am.  Slight pain in left elbow, finger almost stiff - feels as if I have wrenched my finger back and has the same painful ‘pins and needles’ feeling one gets when the hands have been in the cold too long.

3:00am.  Arrive at hospital.  Slight pain under arm and triceps.  Under Hospital recommendation I take two aspirin,  these were taken at 3:30am.  While at hospital the nurse and I looked in ‘Toxbase’ where no mention of any spider bites was to be found.  We then rang Guy’s Hospital where another nurse found some reference to spider bites, but not Poecilotheria.  All we had as a guide was the comments in Schultz & Schultz and Verdez, where one person bitten by P. regalis had a sore finger and the other was in hospital for five weeks - nothing really sound for the nursing staff to work from.  Since I had been bitten almost two hours ago and was still standing, the nursing staff decided to administer two aspirin to relieve the pain (uncomfortable, but not agonising).

3:45am.  Left hospital.  At this point in time there was no visible tracking from the bite; no sense of euphoria, nausea; no hallucinations; no bowel movements and no sign of any necropsy around the bite (I remained calm at all times).  When I returned home I had a cup of coffee.  No dressing or cream/ointment was ever put on the wound.

4:30am.  Went to bed.  The sub-adult, female P. pederseni was feeding and showed no signs of stress.

4:00pm.  Finger and knuckle was still stiff and had that wrenched, ‘pins and needles’ feeling.  I did some gardening and found it painful to grip with my left hand, but this did not prevent me using my hand.

11:30pm.  I had a warm bath and took my watch off (I always keep my watch on, except for swimming and bathing.  I like to wear my watch tight on my wrist).

12:55am.  The knuckle of my wedding finger was stiff (exercise from gardening or venom?). I then went to bed.

11th September, 8:30am.  The finger was still stiff as I set off to work.

11:00am.  Felt ‘flu like’.  My breathing was a bit heavy and my left armpit glands were swollen and painful.

2:00pm.  Requested to be taken back to hospital as my breathing was now much heavier.

2:20pm.  Back in hospital we tried to get in touch with Jean Lou Dorne at Southampton University (the other people who I would have sought help from were in India).

4:30pm.  Discovered Jean Lou was on holiday, the person I spoke to suggested I might be having an allergic reaction to the venom.  I explained this to Andy, the nurse attending me, he agreed with this and prescribed Cetirizine (10mg

tablets), and Prednisolone (5mg tablets) – a steroid and an anti-histamine respectively.  I had to take 10mg of each tablet each day, for five days.

12th September, 10:30am.  Woke up to find that my finger was still stiff.  Most of the pain had gone, but I felt very rough and still ‘flu like’.  I walked up to the Post Office to pick up a parcel (the walk was around 600m, but up-hill).  When I got to the Post Office I could only pick up one package and had to go home for proof of identity for the other one.  As I returned to the Post Office I had a mild asthma attack and had to sit down for 20 minutes, and use my inhaler, before I could pick up the parcel.  I was given a lift home where, after a drink of water and my pills, I sat down and fell asleep.

4:30pm.  Woke up, still feeling pretty groggy.


For the next day I refrained from any strenuous activity.  I felt worn out and my stool was of a softer consistency than normal.  This could have been due to the steroids and anti-histamines (there was also no sign of blood or mucus).  My urine was normal too - no blood or marked discoloration.  My breathing was still noticeable, but not as heavy as before.  I did not feel like eating and ‘went off’ even mildly spicy food.  I regularly used my inhaler, both the blue and the brown ones.


15th September.  Woke up early with pain in my lower sides - could be due either to a mixture of German beer and Tequila, or more allergic reactions to the venom.

~1:30pm.  I felt as if I had really bad heartburn.  I then had a drink and took the last of my pills.

~1:45pm.  Felt slightly better.

5:30pm.  The little finger on my left hand was flicking under the wedding finger at the knuckle.  I found this painful, but bearable and  had to push the knuckle back out again.  In the following minutes this happened three more times, only staying out in its normal position on the third ‘push out’.  I then massaged my finger.

17th September 9:05am.  Woke up with severe cramp in my lower, left leg and to a lesser degree, in my right foot behind the toes.

10:45am.  Attended a Doctor’s appointment.  The cramp in my left leg was still there.  A urine sample was also given.  By now I was starting to feel less ‘flu like’.  As I had no steroids or anti-histamine to take I asked the Doctor for a re-prescription, which was declined.  Every time I stretched or yawned, I could feel some of my muscles tighten up almost cramp like.

18th September.  Back to work.  My finger was still a little stiff and I felt better, but my leg muscles were still not fully relaxed causing me to walk with a slight limp (right foot still hurt too).

19th September, ~6:00pm.  I managed to speak to Jean Lou, who agreed that I had had an allergic reaction to the spider’s venom.  It was suggested that I take Ibuprofen, as an anti inflammatory.  He also informed me that the allergic reaction could last a couple of weeks.

I started taking the Ibuprofen that night and continued for the next couple of days.  By the evening of the 21st I was no longer walking with a limp as my calf muscle was now back to normal. Although I still had the pain in my right foot, I could feel it was residing.

I do not believe I was in a life threatening circumstance.  The venom was less of a danger to me than  my own body’s reaction to the venom.  I needed to relax and not do anything strenuous, to allow the drugs and my own white blood cells to mend my body’s reaction to the venom. 

Very little is known about the effects of theraphosid venom, and the Medical facilities have little or no knowledge on the subject.  With this in mind I would request that any useful information should be supplied to me, so that I can pass it onto my local health authority who will ensure that the relevant information is made available for future reference.  I would also request that a copy of this journal and any other BTS journals containing bite information be sent to myself, so that I can also supply this information to my local health authority.

If you do get bitten, stay calm, get someone to take you to hospital immediately.  If you use an inhaler take it with you, bring some other information such as the books referenced below, especially Verdez and Schultz.  Make accurate notes, with times if possible - you might be the first person to be bitten by that species, so all the information you gather will be invaluable for medical knowledge, and for treating the bite.

I would like to thank the following people for their advice, interest, time and concern: Jean Lou Dorne, Jan-Ove Rein, Søren Rafn, Henrik Wessel Frank, Ray Hale, Steve Copley, the attendant Nursing Staff at Princess Margaret’s Hospital Swindon, and last but not least Lesley for her taxi driving, humour (at my expense) and all round care and concern.

References :
Baerg, W. J. 1997: The Tarantula. Fitzgerald Publishing, London, p.88.
Schultz, S. A. & M. J. 1998: The Tarantula Keeper's Guide. Barron's, New York, p.287, 2nd Edition.
Smith, A. M. 1986: The tarantula classification and identification guide. Fitzgerald Publishing, London, p.178.
Verdez, J.-M. & Cléton, F. 2001: Mygales, Découverte Élevage. Philippe Gerard Editions/Bornemann, Paris, p.190.