By Stoy Hedges, BCE
All spiders have venom glands, but the venom of most spiders is not dangerous to people. Two exceptions in the United States are the black widow (three species) and the brown recluse spider. Spider bites are exceedingly rare, and typically occur when the spider becomes trapped against one’s skin while the spider is hiding in a shoe, glove or other clothing. Bites also may occur when a person sticks their fingers in a black widow’s web while turning over items under which the spider is hiding.
Physicians often diagnose many skin lesions or open wounds as “spider bites,” even though the patient has not reported actually feeling or seeing a spider bite their skin. Quite a few conditions can cause skin bumps, red areas and even open wounds, the most important of which are bacteria, especially methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
As pest professionals, it is not our job to try to be a doctor and say “that looks like it could be a spider bite.” Rather, if customers say they think they may have been bitten by a spider, our job is to inspect and place monitoring traps to (1) see whether any brown recluse spiders are actually present and (2) the extent, if any, of the infestation. Customers found to have brown recluses in their home can help prevent accidental bites by:
1. Storing clothing and shoes in sealed, plastic bags inside drawers or inside plastic storage compartments in closets.
2. Avoiding leaving clothing on the floor. Clothing that has been left on the floor, in a clothing basket or are otherwise exposed should always be shaken well and inspected before being worn.
3. Beds should be moved so that they don’t touch walls or curtains.
4. Bed skirts around the box springs should be removed from beds, and bedspreads that come near to or touch the floor should not be used. These items may allow spiders to more easily access the bed.
5. Persons living in infested homes should get in the habit of inspecting the bed prior to climbing into it.