An 8-year-old boy allowed a black widow to bite him because he wanted to become Spider-Man, according to health authorities in Bolivia.
The incident occurred in the town of Vichuloma, Oruro Department, located in the landlocked South American nation of Bolivia, Spanish news agency EFE and bolivia.com reported.
Black widow spiders are several species of venomous arachnids in the genus Latrodectus. In most cases, female specimens feature distinctive reddish, hourglass-shaped markings on the underside of their abdomen, which tend to be dark in color.
Nevertheless, in very rare cases, the bites of some widow species have resulted in death—caused by the severe disruption of nerve signals in the body. In general, young children, the elderly, and people with underlying health problems are at the highest risk from spider bites. The bites of female widow spiders tend to pose more of a risk to humans than those of males.
The 8-year-old boy in Bolivia found the black widow spider under a stone. After seeing the characteristic red markings on the arachnid, he allowed himself to be bitten because he wanted to become Spider-Man, Ernesto Vásquez, head of the Zoonotic Diseases Program of the Departmental Health Service of Oruro, said.
The iconic superhero’s origin story says that teenage high-school student Peter Parker gets his superhuman abilities as Spider-Man after being bitten by a radioactive spider.
“The child, without considering the risks, picked it up [and] placed it on the back of his palm where the arachnid made the bite,” Vásquez told EFE.
After being bitten by the spider, the boy captured it in a glass and went home. But around three hours later, he began to feel unwell, experiencing body aches and intense muscle contractions.
When questioned by his mother, the boy told her that he had been bitten by a colorful spider. The mother then took the child to a health center in a neighboring town. He was subsequently referred to the Hospital General San Juan de Dios in the city of Oruro as a medical emergency.
Pediatricians at the hospital contacted Vásquez so that the minor could be evaluated, and eventually, they worked out that the boy had been bitten by a black widow. Doctors then treated the boy with anti-venom, and his condition stabilized within around half an hour.
“We are extremely concerned because the analysis and questions asked to the child when he had already recovered indicate that he picked up the arachnid with a simple purpose—that he wanted to become Spider-Man,” Vásquez said.
The health official added that parents should educate children, especially those under 11 years of age, about the risks of being bitten by spiders like these. If they are not treated immediately, the consequences could be “very unfortunate.”
“These black spiders with red backs are black widows. They do not cause anyone to become Spider-Man—on the contrary, they are putting lives at risk,” Vásquez emphasized.
In 2020, a similar case occurred in the rural Bolivian town of Chayanta, in the Andean region of Potosí, involving three children aged 8, 10, and 12 respectively. The trio provoked a black widow spider to bite them with the same objective. Doctors also managed to successfully treat the children in that incident as well.