Just in case you needed a new fear to keep you awake at night, here’s this possibly fanciful tale of arachnid infestation. A UK man claims to have gotten a gnarly swollen toe while on a cruise from having a wolf spider lay eggs inside it. Though the toe injury appears to be real enough, some experts have already cast doubt on the egg-laying part.
The man, identified as Colin Blake, seems to have first told his story to BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime. He and his wife had been celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary with a cruise to France when his big toe suddenly swelled up overnight (here’s a photo if you want to see it for yourself). Sometime earlier, he recalled being bitten while eating a meal with his wife outdoors in Marseille. Blake visited the cruise ship’s doctors, who reportedly told him that the swelling was caused by a wolf spider.
The medical staff reportedly then cut open the toe, causing a “milk-like” pus to spew out. Within this pus, Blake claims to have seen spider eggs. Following his return to the UK, Blake received further care at a hospital where he was given antibiotics. In a report given by Blake to the hospital, the potential egg-laying arachnid was specifically referred to as a Peruvian wolf spider, according to the BBC.
Bugs laying eggs or larvae inside our skin are unfortunately not just the realm of science fiction. Certain species of flies do it often enough that it’s recognised as a distinct medical condition, called myiasis (in other words, a maggot infestation). Some species of mites—microscopic arachnids—also live their entire lives on our skin, which includes laying eggs underneath it.
But thankfully, this story may have not happened the way Blake says or believes it did. The man did share images of his injured toe with the BBC, which definitely looks worse for wear. But several experts told the outlet that a wolf spider laying eggs inside a human toe simply doesn’t pass the sniff test.
“I can’t possibly see how it could be true at all because I know about their biology,” Sara Goodacre, an evolutionary biologist and geneticist who studies spiders at the University of Nottingham, told the BBC. “[The egg sacs] take quite a while to spin. The spider venom is not necrotising, it is designed to paralyse a fruit fly.”
The British Arachnological Society also told the BBC that the claim was “implausible.”
As for Blake, he’s expected to make a full recovery. And if the spider toe is indeed more fable than fact, it’ll join an illustrious line of bug-related urban legends. Case in point: Have you ever heard about the girl whose swollen jaw was filled with cockroach eggs that she got from eating Taco Bell??
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