How dangerous is it and where does the name come from?

Not only is its name scary: With its hairy legs, which can be up to two inches long, and its robust yellow body, the Nosferatu spider is a living nightmare for anyone with arachnophobia. He lived until 20 years ago Zoropsis spinimana – As the spider is called in technical terms – only in the Mediterranean. However, it has since found its way north.

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The spider species was first discovered in Germany in 2005 and has since spread widely. It has already been spotted in Bremen, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Baden-Württemberg, among other places. But why are spiders attracted to northern latitudes? And how dangerous is it? The most important questions and answers at a glance.

How did the Nosferatu spider get its name?

The Nosferatu spider owes its name to the distinctive markings on its back. With a lot of imagination, the face of the vampire Nosferatu can be seen from the silent classic of the same name, the first film adaptation of the novel “Dracula”.

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Is the Nosferatu spider poisonous?

In principle, almost all spiders are poisonous, writes the Union for the Conservation of Nature in North Rhine-Westphalia (Nabu) on its website. The Nosferatu spider uses its poison primarily for hunting, in order to stun its prey. Unlike most species of spiders that live in Germany, they can penetrate human skin with bite tools. But a sting in humans can be compared to a bee or wasp sting – provided that there is no allergy.

The bite usually only occurs when the spider feels threatened, says Frederic Eggers, leader of the Nature and Environmental Conservation Team in Lower Saxony’s Nabu. So you should not hold them with your bare hands, but put a glass on top of them, push a piece of thin cardboard under the glass and move the animal outside.

The Nosferatu spider now also feels at home here in Germany.

How common is the Nosferatu spider in Germany?

It is not known exactly how many specimens live in Germany. The Atlas of Spiders in Europe shows that the Nosferatu spider spread mainly along the Rhine and its tributaries in Germany. So far, it has been discovered mainly in buildings, writes Nabu North Rhine-Westphalia. Perhaps because she likes the warmth, or because she is unlikely to be overlooked there.

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In southern Europe and North Africa, where the spider is already at home, it lives in sparse forests. Since the animals are nocturnal, they usually hide under stones and bark during the day. Only when it gets dark do they catch small insects. They do not build nets, but rather pursue and crush their prey while jumping. Thanks to the special sticky bristles on their legs, they can even move on a vertical pane of glass.

Why is the spider spread in this country in the first place?

“Probably the first Nosferatu spiders found in Germany were holiday souvenirs that then multiplied in shelter homes,” says Eggers, an expert on Naboo. Meanwhile, other factors are also at play: “Climate change and the associated mild winters are now promoting the spread of the animals.” And spiders are finding more and more attractive habitats.

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In partnership with the Naturgucker Network, Naboo collects data from views on the platform. This should allow the occurrence of this species and the factors affecting its distribution to be documented, Eggers explains.

What does creating a Nosferatu spider mean for an ecosystem?

Since the Nosferatu spider is mainly seen indoors, it can be a particular problem for the large house spider. It could represent a competitor or even a thief, according to the Karlsruhe Natural History Museum website. However, the large house spider has the advantage that it is well protected from attacks in its webs. “So far, nothing has been known about the effects on the spider community,” she continues. It is also not yet clear what consequences a Nosferatu spider’s settlement might have on the ecosystem.

Can we expect more new spider species?

Climate change is creating new environmental conditions. Northern regions are becoming warmer, making them more attractive to warmth-loving animals such as the Nosferatu spider. This also applies to mosquitoes and ticks. “You have to be prepared for the fact that in the context of climate change, one or another animal species may get here that you don’t necessarily want,” said Birgit Koenigs from Nabu North Rhine-Westphalia to ZDF.

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In Germany, for example, the nurse thorn toe was spotted – a type of spider actually found in the Mediterranean regions south of the Alps. Their bite is worse than the bite of a Nosferatu spider. Nabu Brandenburg wrote on his website that the nurse’s thorn toe poison is a mixture of tissue, harmful blood and neurotoxins. The good news is that “there are no known permanent injuries or deaths.”

RND / lb / dpa

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