Creepy crawlies probably aren’t the first things that come to mind when conjuring images of Dubai. More commonly associated with luxury holidays, vibrant nightlife, and impressive architecture, Dubai is known as the home of the tallest building in the world and not the deadliest animals.
Still, among the incredible wildlife in the UAE, there are some scary critters you should be aware of before jetting off on your next trip. Dubai is largely considered among the safest cities in the world and you’re unlikely to encounter much danger. But it’s located in a hot, dry, and exotic middle-eastern country. Roaming the desert, hiding in fruit, and even making their way into your suitcase could be one of the many spider species that call Dubai home.
From harmless house spiders to lethal redbacks, spider sightings are on the rise in the UAE, but should you be worried? Find out all about Dubai’s eight-legged residents in this guide. Let’s go.
Black Widow (Redback) Spiders
More commonly known as black widows in the western world, these deadly arachnids are easily recognizable for their swollen abdomens and red back-markings. This species earned its name from the tendency of females to eat their partners after mating. Although thought to rarely occur, it has earned them a killer reputation.
Still, It’s not just their mating practices that make them scary. Black widows are poisonous and their venom is thought to be 15 times more potent than that of a rattlesnake. They are also deadly when ingested in their first 17 days of life. We don’t want to know how researchers found that one out, but as long as you don’t go around eating them, do Dubai’s redbacks pose a threat?
A black widow bite is likely to cause immediate pain, although some people may just be slightly affected. Severe burning, swelling, and localized redness are all common symptoms, along with two small fang marks. You should seek medical treatment if you suspect that a black widow has bitten you, but bites aren’t usually fatal and these spiders tend to be timid. Populations of black widows are on the rise in Dubai, spread globally by cargo vessels and tourist luggage. Check bags and shoes where they could be lurking before you leave.
Jumping spiders are a fascinating and harmless species that are common in the Dubai sunshine. Unlike many other spiders, they are active during the day and seem to enjoy warm temperatures and beating sun.
Jumping spiders are notoriously cute, known for their large beady front two eyes which actually give them the best vision of all arachnids. They use their eyesight for courtship, navigation, and of course, hunting, for which their impressive and unique movement comes in handy. Jumping spiders can propel themselves great distances, using a spring-like mechanism or direct muscle force from the rapid change of internal fluid pressure.
Many people wonder if jumping spiders are friendly due to their adorable appearance, and they are certainly not aggressive. But they tend to shy away from direct human contact and are hard to keep as a pet. They’re known to be curious and it could feel as if one is looking you dead in the eye. This is actually what they to size up their prey, but don’t worry. Jumping spiders are clever enough to know that you are too large for their next dinner.
As their name implies, these forboding spiders share their habitat with the humped queens of Dubai’s deserts. Spending their days in shallow burrows dug into the ground or hiding behind any object they can find, these spiders are timid and mainly nocturnal, but formidable predators.
Voracious feeders, some camel spiders kill and feed on lizards and even mice. Their speed and stealth allow them to catch prey and they can be attracted to light during dark desert conditions, so watch out for your torch lights if you’re camping under the stars. They’re easily recognizable by their enormous fangs which jut out at either side of their front bodies as pincers. They’re hairy and reddish-brown with long and elongated abdomens, often translucent like a scorpion.
Despite looking the most terrifying of all Dubai spiders, camel spiders are not a threat to humans, but they could give you a scare. Without venom in their fangs, a bite won’t do much harm but it can hurt, and the greatest risk is of infection. Seek medical treatment after any suspected spider bite and keep the wound clean as you would any other.
Zig-Zag Orb Spider
With a large bulbous, yellow body, small head, and long black legs, the zig-zag orb spider, otherwise known as the yellow garden spider, is one of Dubai’s most unique. It gets its name from the vertical zig-zag pattern they make with their webs and they frequent acacia trees and rocky outcrops in the early parts of summer.
Zig-zag orb spiders entangle prey in their webs, spinning insects in a silk band. They’re also known to feed on small bats, carrying just enough venom to be deadly to their victims. But this is relatively harmless to humans and just a concern to the young, old, or those allergic to the venom. Allergies aren’t necessarily obvious so watch out for extreme reactions like swelling, dizziness, and nausea. This can all lead to anaphylactic shock, but only in rare cases.
They’re easily recognizable by their spiny oval abdomens, but like most spiders, they will avoid humans and are non-aggressive unless they feel threatened.
Wolf spiders are characteristically large, with three rows of eight eyes which they use to hunt. They depend on their sight and camouflage to catch prey, and their dull brown coloration makes it easy for them to disguise themselves.
Wolf Spiders are widely spread across the Middle East and hunt during the night when their large beady eyes could be reflected by the glow of a torch. Although they make temporary burrows during the day to hide from the heat, this species has no real home and wanders around looking for opportunistic prey.
It is possible to be allergic to a wolf spider’s venom, but they’re not considered dangerous. Their large size means a bite could hurt more than other spider bites, but should only cause mild pain, localized swelling, and itchiness that will subside in a few hours. They also breed in a unique way, carrying eggs with them in a silken globe and raising their abdomen to keep the eggs from dragging. They still hunt while pregnant, and immediately after the eggs hatch, spiderlings climb the mother and group on her abdomen for their first few days of life.
Long-bodied Cellar Spiders
True to their name, long-bodied cellar spiders are distinctively elongated with tubular abdomens that can reach up to eight millimeters in females. Otherwise known as “daddy longlegs” for their likewise characteristically lanky limbs, they’re common in houses where they can find cool corners and shade from which to prey on their small insects.
Among the most common spiders in the world, they are not poisonous and are not known to bite humans. With tiny mouthparts and timid natures, long-bodied cellar spiders pose no threat but have been demonized in the past. Urban myths state they’re among the most deadly species in the world, but even if the humble daddy longlegs carried enough venom to take down a human, their fangs are too short to deliver a bite.
So named because its front legs are arranged similar to a crab’s, this spider can run sideways and uses its exceptional vision and movement to help it catch prey. With a globular abdomen, sometimes with striking markings, the crab spider can change color to match its surroundings making it a master of disguise. They otherwise appear white in shade and are usually found dwelling on flowers, earning them a nickname of the “flower crab”.
Crab spiders are venomous but their mouthparts aren’t usually large enough to pierce human skin. Using their hunting abilities to feast on flies and mosquitos instead, they are generally beneficial to our ecosystems, and finding a crab spider in your house is a good thing. Although they’ll prefer your garden.
Crab spiders are free-roaming and don’t build webs, waiting in plants for their unsuspecting victims. Males are far smaller than females, but females are known to prey on insects as big as bees who frequent their flowerbed homes.
Are there poisonous spiders in UAE?
Although spiders still don’t pose much of a threat in the UAE, redback populations, otherwise known as black widows, are on the rise. They travel to the country in imported produce and luggage, and their venom can be deadly to the very old, young, or allergic. There are a few other species of poisonous spiders in Dubai, but they pose little threat to humans, carrying only small amounts of venom designed to kill their tiny victims. The biggest risk of a spider bite is an infection, so seek medical advice if your symptoms persevere and always keep wounds clean.
Are there venomous snakes in Dubai?
On top of the long list of Dubai spiders, you can also find poisonous snakes although they’re uncommon in built-up areas. Deadly species like the Persian horned viper, Arabian cobra, Saw-scaled viper, and Arabian horned viper all live in the UAE, but you’re more likely to find them hiding in the desert than anywhere near the Burj Khalifa.
Are there scorpions in Dubai?
There are two species of poisonous scorpions common to Dubai, this is the fat-tailed scorpion and the death-stalker scorpion. Despite what arachnophobes might say, these are far more formidable predators than Dubai spiders and both scorpions carry enough venom to cause coma or death to a human in the case of a sting. Sightings are rare and scorpions avoid humans, hunting at night and burrowing in the desert during the day. But if you do encounter one, give it a wide berth and be extra cautious to not aggravate it.
Why are there no insects in Dubai?
Despite common assumptions of Dubai with its luxe beach clubs, manicured developments, and contemporary skyscrapers, there are plenty of insects in the UAE, especially in the city. While some exotic scorpions, spiders, and even camels, much prefer the arid desert landscape of surrounding reserves, the lush gardens of the suburbs and their manmade lakes attract huge populations of mosquitoes and flies, especially during the dry spring. You’ll also find that cockroaches and bed bugs share your vacation rental with you. The dry climate attracts a diverse range of wildlife, but many insects prefer the shade of houses over the scorching desert heat.