Boys let black widow bite them in hopes of becoming Spider-Man

Three boys in Bolivia provoked a black widow spider to bite them in hopes of becoming Spider-Man. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

With great power comes great responsibility — and with great imagination sometimes comes great pain.

Three overly imaginative boys in Bolivia survived a dangerous series of spider bites from a black widow earlier this month, according to Virgilio Pietro, the country’s top epidemiologist at the Bolivian Ministry of Health.

The three brothers, ages 8, 10 and 12, had hoped to get Spider-Man‘s powers by provoking the bites, Pietro told reporters at a coronavirus briefing on May 22.

They ended up getting a trip to the hospital and a painful lesson.

The incident happened on May 14 in the town of Chayanta, Bolivia’s El Diario newspaper reports.

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According to Pietro’s account, the three boys were helping their mother care for some goats when she stepped away, leaving them unattended. The trio discovered a black widow spider and decided to “experiment” with it to see if they could obtain magical powers, Pietro said.

They passed the spider around and used a stick to provoke it to bite.

A black widow spider is shown in this file photo. H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Their mother returned to see them crying, and they were rushed to a small-town hospital, where their symptoms worsened to include muscle aches, sweating, fever and shaking, according to Telemundo.

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The boys were transferred to a children’s hospital in La Paz the next day, and they were treated with a serum for the bites. They were discharged on May 20, according to Pietro.

He said the incident should serve as a cautionary tale for parents.

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“For children, everything is real, movies are real, dreams can be real, and they are the illusions of our lifetime,” Pietro said.

Black widows can be found throughout North and South America, where females are easily recognized by the distinctive red hourglass markings on their all-black abdomens. They typically only bite when they feel threatened, and their toxic sting can cause severe pain and muscle spasms, according to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

“Although these bites are generally not life-threatening for healthy adults, medical attention should always be sought following a black widow bite — particularly for children and the elderly,” the NCC says.

The black widow spider gets its menacing name from its mating habits, which occasionally involve the female eating the male after they’ve done the deed.

Judging from Pietro’s story, the Bolivian boys appear to have confused a few secret origin stories from Marvel Comics.

In the case of Spider-Man, his alter ego Peter Parker gets his powers from a radioactive spider. Miles Morales, the Spider-Man in Sony’s wildly popular Into the Spider-Verse film, also gets his powers from a unique spider that has been genetically modified.

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Marvel comics and movies also feature another character named Black Widow, a super-spy with no powers played by Scarlett Johansson in the Avengers films. She wears a costume inspired by the spider, but it plays no role in her origin.

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There are no recorded cases of a spider passing along its proportional strength or agility to a human.

At least, not in this universe.


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