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What venomous species are there in Spain?

Spain isn't famed for having dangerous animals but there are a handful of venomous species that can cause harm. Here are the creatures you should be aware of while spending time in Spain and where they are most prevalent.

What venomous species are there in Spain?
Four of the potentially harmful species that live in Spain. Image: Wikipedia

Spiders
Bites from spiders are rare in Spain and there have been zero documented cases of someone dying from a spider bite in the country. There are however a few venomous spiders here, with the two you should be aware of being the brown recluse spider and the black widow spider.

Recluse spider – The recluse spider (pictured above) is the species that in 2021 bit a British tourist in Ibiza, causing him to lose two fingers as a result. They are quite large and brown and have a distinct violin-shaped marking on their backs. The bites are often painful and itchy and sometimes develop into an open sore, but according to a hospital spokesperson who treated the tourist, this type of spider doesn’t usually cause such serious injury. It could be worse if the sore becomes infected or if you’re allergic to the venom. They are most common in Andalusia, but can be found elsewhere. 

Black widow spider – Black widow spiders are Spain’s most dangerous spider and can be identified by the distinctive red hourglass shape on their backs. Their venom attacks the nervous system and can cause fever, blindness, vomiting and asphyxiation. However, their venom is a lot less dangerous than the black widows found in the US, so these extreme reactions are unlikely. They are most commonly found in Almería, Aragón, Andalusia and Valencia.

Photo: Ken-ichi Ueda/Wikipedia

Snakes

There are around 13 types of snakes in Spain, but only five of these are venomous. Snake bites are rare in Spain. According to a scientific report by J. P. Chippaux, it is estimated that between one and seven people are killed by snake bites per year in Europe.

There are no snakes that are native to the Canary Islands (even though some were brought over as pets and escaped), but snakes can be found throughout the mainland. 

Seoane’s viper – Seoane’s vipers can have a brown zigzag pattern on their backs or can be very dark grey or black. They mainly live in Galicia, Castilla y León, the Cantabrian coast and the Basque Country. According to Iberian Vipers, bites from these snakes is not normally life-threatening, although could be for the elderly, children or people with certain illnesses. 

Photo: Benny Trapp/Wikipedia

Asp viper – The Asp viper is brown with black stripes and is found throughout the Pyrenees. In rare cases, bites from these snakes can be fatal if left untreated.

Photo: Werner Seiler/Wikipedia

Snub-nosed or Lataste’s viper – The snub-nosed viper is so-called because it has a kind of triangular-shaped horn on the end of its nose. They are greyish in colour with a black or brown zigzag pattern down their body. They’re found throughout Spain in dry and rocky habitats.

Photo: Tim Vickers/Wikipedia

False smooth snake – False snakes are small and grey with brown spots and have smooth scales. Their venom is very mild and bites from them are extremely rare. 

Photo: Bernard Dupont/Wikipedia

Montpellier Snake – The Montpellier snake is very long and is blue or greenish with a white underbelly. Bites from this type of snake are rare because of the location of its fangs, but if you are bitten, the venom is quite mild, and while it may be very painful, is unlikely to cause serious health issues.

Photo: Diego Delso/Wikipedia

Jellyfish

Jellyfish sting thousands of people every year in Spanish waters, more during years when the beaches are invaded by them, however, most don’t cause any severe health issues. The jellyfish below are the most venomous ones in Spain that you should look out for. 

Purple Stinger  – These jellyfish are purple or mauve in colour with a bell-shaped umbrella covering. Their tentacles can reach up to three metres long. Stings from these jellyfish can be nasty and painful, often leaving scars, but they are not lethal. 

Photo: Hans Hillewaert/Wikipedia

Flower hat jellyfish – These creatures are usually white or clear with pink-tipped worm-like tentacles. Their stings cause a rash which is rarely fatal to humans, however this species did cause one death in the 1970s. 

Photo: Chris Favero/Wikipedia

Sea wasp jellyfish – Also known as the European box jellyfish, this species is typically translucent. It is not as common as some of the others on the list, and its sting is nowhere near as dangerous as the deadly Australian box jellyfish. 

Photo: Guido Gautsch/Wikipedia

Portuguese Man O’ War – The Portuguese Man O’ War is actually not technically a jellyfish, even though it looks like one and – according to National Geographic – is in fact made up of lots of smaller organisms. It is one of the most deadly creatures on our list and its stings can be life-threatening.

Unfortunately, they have become more prevalent in European waters over the last decade. They are blue and purple in colour and float on top of the water instead of underneath. Watch out though because their tentacles can reach over 30ft long, so if you spot one and you think you’re far enough away from it, you should still get out of the water. 

Portuguese Man O’ War can be found off the coast of Spain. Image: Alicia Campbell / Pixabay

Scorpions

Scorpions can be found throughout Spain. The two venomous species that can be found here are the Yellow Scorpion (pictured below), also sometimes referred to as the Mediterranean scorpion and the European yellow-tailed scorpion, so-called because it’s black with a yellow tail. Their stings, while painful, are unlikely to cause any serious damage. 

Photo: Bernard Dupont/Wikipedia

Caterpillars and Centipedes

Most caterpillars and centipedes are completely harmless in Spain, but there are two which can cause reactions if touched. These are the hairy pine processionary caterpillars, which can cause a rash and even temporary blindness.

Photo: Asqueladd/Wikipedia

The Megarian banded centipede is common in Spain and is black and yellow in colour. Its bite is painful, but it is very rare for it to cause any serious health issues. 

Photo: Wikipedia/ ערן פינקל

Ticks and mosquitoes

Other species you need to be aware of that are not venomous themselves, but can carry potentially harmful diseases are ticks and mosquitoes. During the summer of 2020, there was an outbreak of the West Nile virus in Andalusia, which is carried by mosquitoes. 

READ ALSO: Ticks are proliferating in Spain: How to avoid them and protect yourself

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WILDFIRES

Spain battles northwest wildfires

Spanish firefighters on Saturday struggled to contain wildfires that have ravaged large tracts in the northwest, as a third summer heat wave grips the country.

Spain battles northwest wildfires

Firefighters were battling six blazes in Galicia that have scorched nearly 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres).

Some 700 people have been evacuated from the area around Boiro, where a blaze broke out on Thursday, according to regional officials.

But no casualties have been reported so far.

“The situation remains complicated. Helicopters are not enough to control all of the homes,” the mayor of neighbouring A Pobra do Caraminal, Xose Lois Pinero, wrote on Facebook.

Near the town of Verin, by the border with Portugal, authorities were managing to contain a fire that started Wednesday and is suspected to have been arson, Galicia government said.

Temperatures hit a 40.9 degrees Celsius (105.62 Fahrenheit) high on Thursday, according to the national weather agency. They have eased since, but were expected to remain around 35C across much of the country on Saturday.

Scientists say human-induced climate change is making extreme weather events including heatwaves and droughts more frequent and more intense. They in turn increase the risk of fires, which emit climate heating greenhouse
gases.

Spain has faced 366 wildfires since the start of the year, fuelled by scorching temperatures and drought conditions.

The flames have destroyed more than 233,000 hectares, more than in any other nation in Europe, according to the European Union’s satellite monitoring service EFFIS.

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