Biting, poisonous and shy: Nosferatu spiders have arrived in Germany

Spiders frighten many people or cause disgust.

Biting, poisonous and shy: Nosferatu spiders have arrived in Germany

Spiders frighten many people or cause disgust. Reports about the Nosferatu spider that has immigrated to Germany further fuel such fears. The animal itself is very shy and can even help to keep bugs away.

Where do Nosferatu spiders come from?

Zoropsis spinimana, the Latin name for the Nosferatu spiders, is originally native to the Mediterranean region and North Africa. There they live in sparse forests, hiding under stones and tree bark during the day and coming out to hunt at night. However, the spiders have also adapted to living with humans. So they can also be found on and in buildings - and without any spider webs at all. They can survive well in warm basements and garages with no outside influences.

Where are the new distribution areas?

The first specimens of this species were discovered more than 20 years ago in Switzerland in the Basel area and in Austria, i.e. outside their original range. In Germany, there was a first confirmed sighting in Baden-Württemberg in 2005. To date, there have been many more sightings, including in Mannheim, Berlin and Cologne. "The species now also seems to feel at home north of the Alps, but so far only in the vicinity of humans," says Roland Mühlethaler from NABU Germany in an interview with According to sighting reports collected by the Arachnologische Gesellschaft e.V., there is a clear accumulation west of the Rhine. From here the species appears to be spreading further north. The warm summers and mild winters make this possible.

How did the spiders get to Germany?

Spiders can spread in many different ways. "They can have made it to Germany in the luggage of vacationers, in cars or in freight," explains the biologist. According to the current spread data, the experts assume an accumulation west of the Rhine and spread via road traffic. "The individual specimens that have been found in Bremen or Berlin, for example, are probably not holiday souvenirs from the south. They most likely come from this area west of the Rhine."

Where in the house are the Nosferatu spiders commonly spotted?

"You often find them in the basement area, in garages, but also sometimes on the fourth floor of a residential building," explains Mühlethaler. Because they are ground-hunting animals, they will also be in houses mainly there. The spider can climb walls and even panes of glass due to special adhesive hairs on its legs. As a representative of the so-called curled-hunting spiders, Zoropsis spinimana does not hunt with spider webs, but still has the ability to spin threads. She uses this to weave her eggs into a cocoon. It kills its prey with its venomous bite.

How do you recognize a Nosferatu spider?

You can clearly recognize the animal by the specific markings on the front part of its back, which also gave it its name. With a little imagination, you could be reminded of a vampire by the two black spots. Specifically, the vampire named Nosferatu, played by Max Schreck in the classic film "Nosferatu-Symphonie des Grauens" by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau from 1922. Although Nosferatu spiders do not feed on blood, there are some parallels to the artificial character: the nocturnal one Way of life and the poisonous bites. The body of an adult spider grows to 1.5 to 2 centimeters in length, its long legs can reach a span of up to 6 centimeters. The spider's color is yellowish-white-grey with black accents. Anyone who discovers a specimen can report it directly to the NABU nature-watching project, preferably with a photo.

What do you do when you find a Nosferatu spider on you?

"It's best to leave it where it is," says Mühlethaler. Because the Nosferatu spiders are also useful animals that decimate vermin. Insects, woodlice or other spiders are on their menu. However, if you cannot stand the presence of the animal, you can catch the spider with a sufficiently large glass and a piece of paper and release it outdoors. To do this, you put the glass over the animal and slide the paper underneath.

But what about the spider's venomous bites?

"The Nosferatu spiders are shy animals and tend to flee when people get too close to them," says Mühlethaler. However, if cornered, a Nosferatu spider could also bite. The animal secretes a poison. People who have been bitten by a Nosferatu spider compare the bite to a bee or wasp sting, which is usually unpleasant but harmless. Allergy sufferers who react to insect bites should keep their distance.

(This article was first published on Tuesday, September 06, 2022.)

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