Two Dead After Aggressive Spiders Reportedly Invade Indian Town

The Times of India reported yesterday that swarms of aggressive spiders descended on an Indian town - Chaulkhowa Nagaon (a village near Sadiya in Assam) - and started biting people and causing panic. The crazy story has since started to fall apart as the truth emerges. Two deaths have been linked to spider bites, but it seems unlikely the spiders have toxic venom. The spider is described as resembling a tarantula. A photograph of a black male and pink female are pictured here in the Times of India story.

The two people who died, a man and a schoolboy, first sought the help of witchdoctors. Dr. Saikia, head of Department of Life Sciences, Dibrugarh University, is quoted as saying the crazy witch doctors cut open the patients wounds with razors, which also could have made them sick.

The aggressive nature of the spiders being reported is highly unusual. The Times of India story says some people claim the spiders leaped onto them, and even remained latched on to them after biting. It could be something, such as a flood, caused the spiders to abandon their nests and "invade" the village.

Dr. Saikia says, "As of now, we cannot give a specific name. It's similar to the tarantula, but it could be a whole new species. There aren't any arachnologists in the northeast, so it will take us a while to identify it. But whatever the species, it is a highly aggressive spider. It leaps at anything that comes close. Some of the victims claimed the spider latched onto them after biting. If that is so, it needs to be dealt with carefully. The chelicerae and fangs of this critter are quite powerful; but it's too early to declare it a killer spider. In fact, we are yet to test its venom and find out the toxicity."

CNN reports that a "web of doubt" surrounds the spider invasion story. The story appears to have snowballed from initial sightings of numerous spiders. CNN says about twelve people did visit local hospitals complaining of spider bites.

An article in The Assam Tribune says the two people who died may not have even been bitten by spiders. The Assam Tribune says one of the men - who the Times of India said died from a spider bite - actually received his bite when he "put his hand into a termite mound." Autopsies are not possible because the bodies have already been cremated.

Posted on June 4, 2012

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