What is the Difference between Venom and Poison?

Venom vs Poison

The two terms are often misunderstood and used as one for the other – “Don’t go near that venomous green frog!”, “That snake bite might have been poisonous” or “The maid poisoned the King’s porridge!” The next time you want to repeat those words, you might want to give some careful consideration to the exact phrasing of the sentence because the connotations could be the same but also very different.

The Similarity

The reason the two words – venom and poison – are interchangeable is because the degree of damage and the effect that they can have on a living creature is quite similar. The chemical components of venom or poison typically attack organs of the body such as the brain or the heart and the living system can take a drastic turn.

Blame evolution all you like but the fact that venomous or poisonous plants or animals exist because these chemicals act as their defense mechanism. Nonetheless, there is a very basic difference between the two that is interesting to discover and could even change the way that the two chemicals are treated once they have entered the body.

The Difference between Venom and Poison

The basic difference between venom and poison lies in the way that it is delivered. A venomous creature needs to inject your body with its venom in some way – it doesn’t just exist in its entire body. This means that they would have to sting, bite or jab you with a part of their body to inject the toxin into your system. This is the reason a fruit can never be venomous. Because of the way in which it is delivered, venom constitutes larger compounds, and thus will technically lose its effects if it is delivered in some other way – for instance by swallowing. It needs to enter through injection into the bloodstream.

On the other hand, a poisonous creature (like the pictured frog below) or plant will have its toxins coursing through its bodies, or present on its skin at all times – which is why you may be poisoned simply by touching them and, of course, eating them. Poisons are therefore conversely smaller compounds and can be easily absorbed by the skin and the body, without the need of being injected directly into the bloodstream.

Related: Scary Spider Facts

Some Examples

Just to make things clearer, when a snake bites or a bee stings – what it is essentially doing is shooting its venom (which it has naturally produced through bodily processes) into your body using its fangs or stings. This means that venom will rarely harm you if it has not entered your bloodstream. Creatures that posses venom usually use it as a means of defense or even as a way of attacking their prey. On the other hand, if you touch, ingest, or inhale a poisonous butterfly, plant or a similarly dispositioned beetle, then this very act could mean that its toxins (poison) are already coursing through your veins.

Deadliest Job in America – Snake Milker!

On this episode, Coyote and Mario are in DeLand, Florida at the Reptile Discovery Center. They learn about one of the deadliest jobs in America – snake venom milking!

Get ready to watch Coyote assist with some dangerous venom milking to create the anti-venom that saves lives!