June 4, 2012 – INDIA – A town in India is living in fear of a swarm of venomous spiders, which last month left two people dead after being bitten. It may sound like a B-grade horror movie, but residents of the town of Sadiya, in Assam state, say that on the evening of May 8 as they were celebrating a Hindu festival swarms of spiders suddenly appeared and attacked them, The Times of India reported. Over the next few days two people – a man, Purnakanta Buragohain, and an unnamed school boy – died after being bitten by the spiders. Scores more turned up at the town’s hospital with spider bites. District authorities are panicking and are considering spraying the town with the insecticide DDT. Locals say the most terrifying aspect is that spiders appear in swarms and their behaviour is highly aggressive. “It leaps at anything that comes close. Some of the victims claimed the spider latched on to them after biting. If that is so, it needs to be dealt with carefully. The chelicerae and fangs of this critter are quite powerful,” head of the department of life sciences at Dibrugarh University Dr LR.Saikia said. Teams of Indian arachnid experts have flocked to the town, hoping to identify the species, but so far they have drawn a blank. They say it could be a tarantula, a black wishbone or even a funnel-web spider – or it could be a whole new species. One thing they agree on is that it is not native to the area as there is no record of venomous spiders in Assam. The black wishbone and funnel-web are native to Australia. Researchers are also still running tests to find out the toxicity of the spiders’ venom. Dr Anil Phatowali, superintendent of the town’s hospital, said they had not administered antivenin as they could not be certain the spider was venomous at all. He also pointed out other factors may have contributed to the two reported fatalities. “All the bite patients first went to witch doctors, who cut open their wounds with razors, drained out blood and burnt it. That could have also made them sick,” Dr. Phatowali said. –News.au
contribution by Cherry B.