Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Spiders and Scorpions Harm Reptiles

©1999 Melissa Kaplan


Herpers tend to look at creepy things differently than non-herpers. Even if we started out being squeamish about bugs and other icky crawly things, we eventually lose the creeped-out reactions and view them more as just another part of life. We let spiders hang out in our homes, and other things roam around or scoot them outside when we find them where we would rather than not be. Unfortunately, this laid-back attitude can have serious repercussions on our reptiles.

Spider bites, and bee stings, and scorpion stings can cause serious allergic reactions in reptiles, just as they can in humans. I have heard from a couple of iguanas owners through the years whose lizards suffered what turned out to be spider bites.

Another woman called me one day, frantic about her iguana, Archie, who had been perfectly healthy the day before, but was suddenly acutely lethargic and showing all the sides of advanced kidney failure. Since he lounged around outdoors on a roof eating nasturtiums during the day, we thought he might have ingested a bug that didn't agree with him, one that had been on a leaf or flower when he ate. Two days later he was fine. A couple of months later, she was giving him his bath. Due to rain damage, there was some reconstruction work being done on the bathroom and there was a crack open to the outside. Archie suddenly launched himself out of the tub when a small scorpion came through the crack and into the tub. In retrospect, Archie's keeper now believes that he may have been stung by a scorpion when soaking one day.

When you have tiny neonate herps, such as froglets or chameleons, spiders pose a double threat, as Kathyrn Tosney, bearded dragon, frilled lizard and chameleon breeder found out:

"Having so many herps, I have become very blasé about insects (unlike my initial interactions with feeder-bugs, feeding them to lizards with crickets held firmly with tweezers, LONG tweezers). It now seems normal to have a cricket run across the floor (even the cats have lost interest), I no longer 'hear' crickets chirping ('what noise???'). I grab insects by the handful, and I don't bother to clean up the cobwebs festooning every room, or to remove the spiders (one of whom recently produced about 100 babies), who I assume were there simply to catch excess escapees. I didn't even think twice when I saw a spider web inside the cage with the baby chameleons (lots of extra tiny bugs in there), until this morning, when I discovered the spider had designs on larger prey.

"I came in to find a baby cham, black, motionless and head-down in a spider web.

"I thought, 'Oh, dear, dumb thing must have fallen in and gotten stuck.' Then I changed the angle of view and noticed the spider mouthparts in intimate contact with the cham's left hindlimb. I rapidly sprayed the duo with water (being a cat owner, the first response to bad behavior is to reach for the water gun, er, sprayer) which washed the baby out of the web and scared the spider back into its corner. I grabbed a paper towel, KILLED the spider (none of this 'take the poor innocent spider outside and let it free' as I could NOT consider that spider to be innocent).

"Baby is showing signs of life, although colored pure black. ... Baby standing up!! ... Baby crawling onto a branch, dragging his left rear hindlimb, which is sticking straight out. ... An hour later, he seems to have regained the use of his limb, although he is still determinedly black (a color I am associating with a less-than-happy condition). Close call, though.

"And the spider wasn't even that big."

Other bugs can cause excited or terrorized responses. I had, as is usually the case, carried my 12 lb., 18" SVL (46 STL) Cyclura iguana into the bathroom and began unloading him into the bathtub. Instead of assisting the transfer, as he usually does, he kept trying to scramble away from the tub. This wasn't his sometimes "No, no, I won't go!" scramble, but a frantic, eyes-wide-pupils-whirling "Get me outta here!" Instead of trying to take off across the room, he climbed up on me, held on tight, and peered over his shoulder at the tub, sides heaving from his labored breathing.

What was in the tub that was so scary? What I took to be a skinny short piece of fallen shed skin turned out to be an earwig who measured about 3/4 inch overall. Once the earwig was removed, he went back into the tub without further fuss.

Related Information

Biocontrolnet: Scorpions & Spiders Spiders

UC Davis: Spiders

Need to update a veterinary or herp society/rescue listing?

Can't find a vet on my site? Check out these other sites.

Amphibians Conservation Health Lizards Resources
Behavior Crocodilians Herpetology Parent/Teacher Snakes
Captivity Education Humor Pet Trade Societies/Rescues
Chelonians Food/Feeding Invertebrates Plants Using Internet
Clean/Disinfect Green Iguanas & Cyclura Kids Prey Veterinarians
Home About Melissa Kaplan CND Lyme Disease Zoonoses
Help Support This Site   Emergency Preparedness

Brought to you thanks to the good folks at Veterinary Information Network, Inc.

© 1994-2014 Melissa Kaplan or as otherwise noted by other authors of articles on this site