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The thorn finger spider is known as one of the few poisonous spiders in German-speaking countries. In this article you will learn how a spider bite affects the human body.

In a nutshell

  • Thornfingers are a genus of spiders that are not deadly to humans
  • According to experience reports, bites should hurt like a wasp sting
  • The main symptom is intense swelling of the affected limb or body part
  • other symptoms such as fever, dizziness or vomiting are possible and disappear with the bite pain after about 24 to 72 hours
  • after an incident: stay calm and see a doctor

Dornfinger in portrait

The thorn finger spider is the most poisonous compared to the other poisonous spiders in German-speaking countries. The nurse's thorn finger (Cheiracanthium punctorium), whose characteristics are used as identification material for the other species, is considered to be the type species of the genus. Thorn finger spiders are particularly easy to recognize by their large, orange-red jaw claws, which, together with the black poisonous claws, immediately catch the eye. Many species are powerful enough to penetrate adult human skin regardless of body site. In German-speaking countries, only the Ammen-Dornfinger can do this. Other taxa do not succeed in this. Because of this, she is able to inject large amounts of poison. In addition to the mandibles, spiders of the genus can be recognized by the following features:

  • Size: up to 150mm
  • females larger than males
  • long legs
  • Legs colored yellow-brownish, black on the "foot"
  • small body in front
  • Colour: orange-red
  • abdomen long
  • Colour: yellow to olive green
  • Apex spot (light) in females
  • disappears after oviposition
  • Males wear middle band (green-grey)
Source: Rainer Altenkamp, Berlin, Cheiracanthium punctorium W 070920, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

They can be distinguished from other spider species in Central Europe solely on the basis of their size.

Notice: It rarely happens that the spiders bite overnight when they get lost in residential buildings. If you feel a stinging pain and you are sure that it cannot be a wasp or similar animal, you should assume Cheiracanthium.


The thorn finger spider is considered poisonous and for this reason a bite should be avoided as much as possible. The poison consists of several components with the following effects:

  • tissue damaging
  • blood damaging
  • neurotoxins

This mix leads to a variety of symptoms, which can vary in intensity depending on the state of health of the person concerned. The pain after the spider bite through the thorn fingers is said to be similar to a wasp sting, but much more uncomfortable. Severe swelling follows, affecting either the bitten area or the entire limb. Other symptoms are:

  • Nausea to the point of vomiting
  • fever
  • a headache
  • dizziness
  • circulatory failure
  • chills
  • lymph node enlargement

Symptoms will subside after one to three days, but the bite site may remain red and irritated for much longer. As poisonous as the thorn finger spider is, it is not really dangerous. With the exception of one case of necrosis at the site of the bite, there have been no reports of consequential damage from the spider. However, there are no known deaths either. However, there is a greater danger for allergy sufferers, sensitive and sick people. These bites can be much more intense, which intensifies the symptoms. Many allergy sufferers suffer from the bites, for example, heart palpitations.

Source: Lucarelli, Cheiracanthium punctorium 2, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Bite: measures

Since thorn fingers are generally not dangerous to humans, you should not ignore bites. It is best to remain calm and not try to cool or otherwise treat the bite. It is very important not to scratch, as this could lead to bacterial infections. If an allergic reaction occurs, you should go to the emergency room or call an ambulance. Depending on the intensity of the allergy, the symptoms can be significantly more severe and should be treated as soon as possible.

Tip: How pets react to the bites of the thorn finger is not explained, but similar symptoms can be assumed. For this reason, pets such as cats, rodents or small dogs with a low body mass should be taken to a vet immediately to prevent possible consequential damage.

frequently asked Questions

Are there other spider species in Central Europe that are poisonous to humans?

Central Europe is not known for many poisonous spiders, but in addition to the nurse's thorn finger there are two more: garden spiders (Araneus) and the water spider (Argyroneta aquatica). Like the water spider, the cross spiders are not dangerous to humans because their mouthparts can only penetrate the thinnest parts of the skin, especially in children. The amount of poison and the effect is comparable to bee stings. The bite site is itchy and temporarily paralyzed locally. Cooling compresses relieve symptoms.

Where is the thorn finger spider most commonly found?

If you want to avoid the thorn finger as effectively as possible, you should avoid the animals' habitat. They prefer to live in dry locations, especially open biotopes with tall grasses and shrubs, as these are ideal for the animals' breeding webs. Train tracks, roadsides, ditches and even gardens are chosen just as often. One of the spiders' favorite plants is Reed Grass (Calamagrostis epigejos), which is often occupied.

How to avoid a spider bite?

If you are in the spider's habitat, it is advisable to wear long clothing and avoid the proximity of the clearly visible webs. The females will bite in response to potential danger, so should not be irritated. Males, on the other hand, wander and get lost in gardens for this reason. Wear enough clothing when gardening, especially when mowing.

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