Spiders found in international cargo brought into North America are sometimes submitted to arachnologists for identification. Often, these spiders are presumed to be of medical importance because of size or a submitter's familiarity with a toxic spider genus from the continent of origin. Starting in 2006, requests were made for spiders found in international cargo brought into North America, in addition to the specimens from similar cargo shipments already in our museum collections. This was an ad hoc study that allowed us to focus on spiders of concern to the discoverer. Weidentified 135 spiders found in international cargo.Akey for the most common species is provided. The most frequently submitted spiders were the pantropical huntsman spider, Heteropoda venatoria (L.) (Sparassidae), and the redfaced banana spider, Cupiennius chiapanensis Medina Soriano (Ctenidae). Spiders of medical importance were rare. The most common cargo from which spiders were submitted was bananas with most specimens coming from Central America, Ecuador, or Colombia. Lack of experience with nonnative fauna caused several experienced American arachnologists to misidentify harmless ctenid spiders (C. chiapanensis, spotlegged banana spider, Cupiennius getazi Simon) as highly toxic Phoneutria spiders. These misidentifications could have led to costly, unwarranted prophylactic eradication measures, unnecessary employee health education, heightened employee anxiety and spoilage when perishable goods are left unloaded due to safety concerns.
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Vol. 51 • No. 6