Italy is a biodiversity zone and home to several animal species than any other European country.
Considering the wide range of animal species here, it behooves us to watch out for poisonous animals in Italy even as we enjoy the land’s beauty.
Italy is also the location of one of the world’s great cities-Rome and a favorite of visitors.
The great monuments and works of art, striking landscapes, unequaled cultural heritage, fascinating water bodies, and rich history of Italy attract visitors.
The enabling ecosystem here supports the survival of many animals and provides a suitable environment for these animals to thrive.
The wildlife of Italy is so impressive that UNESCO declared the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park a World Heritage Site in 2009.
Notwithstanding the rich beauty of Italy, it is important to watch out for some animals considered poisonous in this beautiful country, even as one goes around exploring the country.
Although many of these poisonous animals do not represent a great risk to human life, except in cases of anaphylaxis- a severe allergy to the toxins of various venom, it is important to know about these animals.
Keep reading as we examine some poisonous animals in Italy.
Poisonous Animals in Italy
Scorpions are among the poisonous animals that live in Italy.
These creatures are a type of arachnid and can be seen on every continent worldwide besides Antarctica.
Scorpions have two pincers, eight legs, and a curved tail that ends with a venomous stinger which they usually use for both attack and defense.
Approximately 2,300 known species of scorpions exist globally and come in various sizes and shapes.
Of all these species, only a maximum of 50 species of scorpion are fatal to humans. Good riddance! The scorpions found in Italy do not belong to this very poisonous species.
The scorpions are black and small, rarely growing beyond 30mm in length.
They are nocturnal, rarely seen during the day. Notwithstanding, they could venture inside through cracks and open doors.
When this happens, eliminate their food source and use household pest spray to keep them away.
Italy has about 5 to 7 species of scorpions with rather weak poisons. Although these scorpions in are poisonous, their sting is usually not life-threatening.
Their sting here can be likened to a wasp or a bee sting, which is usually harmless, except in cases of people with allergies to insect stings.
Scorpion attacks are rare in Italy. Nevertheless, if you are stung, you should consult a doctor.
But then, you can carry out the outlined simple first aid.
- Clean the affected area with soap and water to remove dirt and bacteria.
- Elevate the affected limb and apply a cold compress to soothe the swelling.
- You can also take some simple pain relief pills, and within 30 minutes, you should notice the pain beginning to subside.
If it’s a child that is stung or further symptoms are experienced after this first aid, then it is best to visit the hospital to be on the safe side.
Spiders are among the poisonous animals in Italy and are also a type of arachnid and are even considered the largest order of arachnids.
They are popular creatures, known for their signature eight legs and chelicerae with fangs which they use for injecting venom.
Nevertheless, there are known as beneficial creatures in the ecosystem.
Over 40,000 species of spider are currently known, and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. More than 500 species of these spiders are said to exist in Italy.
While plenty of spider species exist in Italy, only 3 carry venom toxic to humans. Besides, it is also very rare for them to attack humans since they are non-aggressive.
However, while their bites are painful, spider bite fatalities are extremely rare in Italy.
Spiders come in different shapes and sizes, each with unique looks and characteristics. Let’s briefly examine these 3 species of poisonous spiders in Italy.
a. The Mediterranean Black Widow Spider
Mediterranean Black Widow spider is known as Latrodectus tredecimguttatus scientifically but goes by the local name “Malmignatta.”
The spider can be found in warmer climates in rural locations and farm fields.
They are rare to find near country houses, so if you visit this beautiful country, don’t worry because the probability of seeing it in your abode is slim.
This spider can be easily identified by its size, distinctive black thorax, and red spots on its abdomen.
Sometimes the spots can be orange or yellow. They are small and measure about 1.5 centimeters long.
The bite from this spider is rarely fatal to humans. Nevertheless, it can be dangerous to children or adults weakened with preexisting illness or age.
Generally, though, their bite can induce fever, nausea, and vomiting. The discomfort can be unbearable.
Victims may also experience sweating, hallucinations, and muscle spasms. Hence, seeking medical attention immediately when one gets bitten is advisable.
b. Ragno Violino
Another poisonous spider in Italy is the ragno violino. This spider is known scientifically as Loxosceles rufescens but is commonly known by its Italian name- ragno violino.
As its name suggests, the spider has a body shaped like a violin and 6 eyes rather than 8.
Another name for this spider is the Mediterranean recluse spider because they are antisocial and prefer to lurk around in dark, enclosed spaces.
They can be brown or yellow and grow from seven to 10 millimeters in size.
The spiders can be found in Italy’s urban and rural environments, but they are not aggressive. So, don’t get paranoid about them; they prefer to move away if disturbed.
Although fatalities from ragno violino bites are rare, their venom has a necrotic effect on affected tissues.
The only recorded fatal case of a violin spider in Italy was the death of a woman in 2016 after being bitten by the spider on her middle finger.
On a more general note, though, their bite can cause pain or discomfort with symptoms ranging from itching, swelling, and mild to severe skin lesions.
Medical treatment is highly required once bitten.
c. Yellow Sac Spider
Yellow sac spider, known as Cheiracanthium inclusum scientifically is also one of the venomous spiders in Italy. The spider can grow up to 20 mm long, with orange-red underbellies.
Just as the name infers, this spider has pale yellowbacks and does not spin a web but creates a flat silk sac at the place where it passes.
This sac may be located where a wall and ceiling converge or in a leaf.
The bite from yellow sac spiders can be hurtful. Their bite has the same effect as wasp stings- redness, itch, swelling, burning- while venom is neurotoxic and cytotoxic.
Severe reactions to the bite include headache and fever. Even though being bitten by a yellow sac spider can be painful, it a rarely life-threatening.
3. Red Scorpionfish
Red scorpion fish is not only among the poisonous animals in Italy but are also known to be among the most poisonous sea creatures because of their sharp venomous spines.
Known scientifically as Scorpaena scrofa, its common name, red scorpion fish, is due to its appearance.
The fish is often bright red, but its coloration sometimes may range from light grey to bright red with blotches.
They live on hard, rocky bottoms at depths greater than 20 m but can sometimes be found at the water’s surface.
This creature has a tight body with toxic spines on its head. It has 11 to 17 dorsal spines and pectoral fins with well-developed rays.
The spines are connected to venom glands that make the sting very painful. The sting can cause intense pain and swelling, lasting for half a day.
Sometimes sting can cause loss of consciousness, dizziness, and hypotension. It is said that the venom spreads to other parts of the body fast, requiring prompt medical attention.
But then, one can lessen the poison by heat for first aid by immersing the affected area in very hot water.
4. Weever Fish
Weever Fish is also one of the poisonous animals in Italy and easily included among the most dangerous fish at sea.
They can be seen in the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, and other coastal regions on the bottom of river and sea beds.
They are nearly impossible to spot because they usually bury their bodies in mud and silt in shallow sandy water near the shore, and humans that step on them get stung.
These fish are a classic example of the saying “looks can be deceiving” because they look harmless, while in reality, they are not.
Weever fish are poisonous because they possess toxic dorsal spines that measure up to 2.5 centimeters in length, which they use to inject their venom into their victims.
A common place to get stung by a weever fish is the foot. Once this occurs, one would know because the pain from their sting, often described as a burning and crushing feeling, is instant.
Symptoms from their sting include; itching, dizziness, nausea, fever, low blood pressure, swelling, headaches, fainting, or seizures.
The pain can be very uncomfortable, and medical attention should be sought immediately.
However, you can do DIY treatment to reduce the pain by doing the following.
- Check for spines and remove them with tweezers.
- Immerse the affected area in hot water for 30-60 minutes. Keep topping the water at this time to maintain the temperature. Note that you can stick with water from 40 C / 104 F. The heat will help to cook out the venom, rendering it harmless and less painful.
- Squeeze the wound to bleed out the venom.
- Wash the affected area with warm water and soap and rinse with fresh water.
That treatment should do, but you can always seek further medical attention for the best result.
Vipers are a family of snakes that can be found in several parts of the world, except for Hawaii, Madagascar, Antarctica, Australia, and other isolated islands.
They are also among the poisonous animals in Italy. Four species of venomous vipers exist in Italy, of which three are potentially lethal to humans.
They can be found across the whole of Italy, except for Sardinia.
These creatures are venomous and have long, hinged fangs at the fore of its mouth, which are used for injecting venom.
This venom travels down through the teeth to be injected into prey as the viper bites, and this causes a very painful wound that can sometimes be fatal.
The severity of the viper’s bite depends on the species, but generally, all viper’s bite causes intense swelling, pain, and necrosis.
Hence, it is advisable always to seek medical attention if bitten by a viper. Let’s take a brief look at these venomous vipers.
a. Asp Viper
One of the most common poisonous vipers in Italy is the Asp Viper, little wonder it is also known as the common viper.
It belongs to the Viperidae family and is known as the ‘Asp”, ‘European Asp,’ ‘Aspic Viper’ and ‘Jura Viper.’
The males are a little slimmer than females and can grow up to 85 cm long, while the female is rarely longer than 75cm.
These creatures have signature broad, triangular-shaped heads with an upturned snout.
Their coloring varies from light grey to reddish-brown, with various markings down the body, occasionally resembling a half zig-zag.
They can be found in the hilly and mountainous region of Italy and places where they can access warmth and water.
Their venom is very potent though rarely fatal for humans. Nevertheless, around 4% of untreated cases do end with a fatality.
Hence, one must get an antidote immediately because it can turn fatal if not treated immediately.
Symptoms of its bites include acute pain, swelling and discoloration at the site of contact, paralysis, difficulty breathing, impaired vision, and difficulty swallowing.
b. Horned Viper
Another venomous viper in Italy is the horned viper. This viper is found mostly in northeast Italy. It can grow 85-95 CM in length.
As its name suggests, this viper has a distinctive single “horn” on its snout, which grows to a length of 5 mm and is soft and flexible.
Both male and female vipers have a similar color pattern, but the female has less distinct and contrasting patterns.
The males have irregular dark brown, gray, or black marks. They also have a row of indistinct, dark (occasionally yellowish) spots which runs along each side, sometimes joined in a wavy band.
These vipers are not aggressive and tend to be shy, except when provoked. If surprised, some may remain motionless and hiss loudly, whereas some hiss and then flee, and some will attempt to bite immediately.
Notwithstanding, its venom is quite potent and capable of damaging the nervous system of its victim.
Hence, immediate medical attention is advised. Symptoms of horned viper bites include; pain, swelling, fatigue, and discoloration, all of which may be immediate.
c. Vipera Ursinii
This viper is also known as meadow viper. The viper is considered a rare species in Italy, in danger of extinction but can be found in some areas of the central Apennines.
It grows up to 50 cm long and is characterized by a thick body, narrow head, and a brown or black zig-zag stripe on its back. T
The viper hides within holes in the ground, rock cavities, and the dense tangle of junipers at the slightest sign of danger.
This viper, unlike its brethren, is a mildly venomous snake. Nevertheless, medical attention is advised if bitten.
There are about 3, 620 species of mosquitoes known in the world.
Although these creatures are often associated with the tropics, about 60 can be found in Italy, especially in the high-summer months when it gets humid and around large bodies of water. But then, only 10 of these interest the mosquito controllers.
Mosquitoes are also among the poisonous animals in Italy. They are insects with segmented bodies, a pair of wings, and an elongated sharp mouth with their life cycle consisting of the egg, larva, pupa, and adult stage.
They are common insects that can inflict a small bite that usually results in local inflammation and itching at the contact site.
Apart from the bites, some species of these insects carry poisons that cause problems.
One of the most common is the pathogen carried by the female anopheles mosquito, which transmits Malaria- a very common enemy in Africa.
Although Italy was once declared a Malaria free country by WHO fifty years ago, the issue is no longer the case today.
There have been cases of imported Malaria in Italy recently due to increased international travel, climatic and environmental change, and migratory flows.
Apart from being carriers of Malaria, mosquitoes are also agents that carry different parasites and infections such as Dengue, Zika virus, and West Nile virus.
In fact, since the beginning of July 2022, they have been reported cases of the West Nile virus in Italy.
This virus causes West Nile fever and is spread by ordinary mosquito bites.
The good news is that the spread of this virus is rare in travelers and rarely results in fatalities.
Nevertheless, it is best to avoid mosquito bites. You can take insect repellent with you as you explore Italy.
But then, when stung, do not hesitate to seek medical attention.