CLOSED: Question on spider bites

Decatur, GA

Does anyone have a good idea about how many common/or uncommon spiders in the USA give a nasty enough bite to cause serious problems for people? I know the Brown Recluse can cause tissue necrosis(death) and the Black Widow is bad, though I don't know what the effects are.
I don't think of most spider bites as being much more than a possible annoyance. Am I delusional? Should I be more worried about getting bitten? Because right now I am not!
Thanks,
Helen

Sinks Grove, WV

The brown recluse and the widow spiders (Latrodectus spp.) appear to be the only spiders in the US likely to have a bite of serious medical concern, and even with the brown recluse, there appears to be quite a bit of over/misdiagnosis. Whereas the effects of widow spider venom appear fairly characteristic/diagnostic, bites allegedly from recluse spiders are difficult to confirm unless one actually captures/sees the spider in the act of biting, as there are many other causes of necrotic skin lesions other than spider bites - see http://spiders.ucr.edu/.
Also, you will find references (particularly on the internet) to the bites of sac spiders (especially Cheiracanthium sp.) and hobo spiders (Tegenaria agrestis) causing necrotic lesions, but these do not appear serious.
With very few exceptions, all spiders are venomous, but in the vast majority of cases, bites are of no real consequence. However, as with bee/wasp venoms, some individuals react more severely than others, and may even experience general systemic reactions such as fever, malaise, stomach cramps, and nausea.
Hope this helps...

Decatur, GA

suunto, thanks for your input.
I agree, any insect or bug bite can cause an allergic reaction that can be life threatening. But luckily that is rare.
I will continue to enjoy the company of spiders around my house without worry. :-)

Helen

Nashville, TN(Zone 6b)

Suunto, Thanks for your informative and accurate response to this question :) I fully expected to find the replies full of innacuracies since that is the norm for these misunderstood creatures.

I am a spider enthusiest and while I have no formal training I have researched and observed the for sometime :)
I currently only keep several species of tarantula but I have kept 3 different species of Latrodectus in the past and L mactans many times over the past 13 or so years.

As far as L mactans I can vouch that they are actually very shy creatures that will run from human intrusion (if in the web) or play dead (if caught on the ground) unless they are actively guarding an egg sack or young. When guarding a fertile sack or young they tend to be quite protective. In all of my time workin with black widows I have never been bitten just by taking some basic precautions.

L reclusa and L mactans venom works on the human body in different ways. L reclusa has a necrotic venom they breaks down the tissue radiating outward from the site of the bite. Only about 20% of the population has a serious reaction to the venom. A black widow has a neurotoxin, the venom affects the pain receptors. It is rarely fatal except in cases of the very young, elderly or infirmed. Results of envenomation include varying degrees of increased salivation and perspiration, numbness, muscle weakness, headache, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing and high blood pressure depending on the individual's sensitivity. There are actually four different species found in North america now, with L mactans, the Southern black widow, having the most potent venom.

While L reclusa is a wandering spider that never stays in one place for very long (a primary reason I have never kept this species) the black widow tends to set up house and once familiarized is very easy to locate by it's webs. The black widow prefers to live in cracks, crevices and other protected areas but it's tangled web will extend out from its 'hide' to catch happless prey that wanders by. I am in zone 7 and have seen widows alive and well in protected southern exposures even in the middle of winter (although they were much slower as a result of the cold weather.)

I have never killed the widows around the outside of my home and have had 4 children playing in areas where widows are known to coexist. The only precaution I have ever taken is checking the rims and undersides of toys and making sure the children could identify likely Latrodectus webs and the spiders themselves. One summer we even watched a large female find a mate and raise her young about two feet to the left of my front door with no incident and none of the young finding their way inside. They most definitely are not as fearsome as urban legends would lead you to believe!

Midway City, CA

I knew a friend of a friend who claimed to have gotten some unknown virus from a spider bite. Even though the bite wasn't poisonous, it did supposedly transmit some virus. The virus would occasionally cause him to break out in a cold sweat, and cause him to shake, he said. After I heard that I never tried to handle any spiders. However, I never researched this (that was in the early '80s before the Internet was popular), and that guy was unreliable about some things, so maybe he was wrong. Has anybody else heard of catching viruses from spiders?

This message was edited Aug 4, 2009 2:50 AM

Decatur, GA

I have never heard of that. Anyone else?

Sinks Grove, WV

To the best of my knowledge,there has never been any evidence of any viral transmission to humans by any spider, period. On the other hand, it is possible to get a secondary bacterial infection from the bite of a large spider (they seldom brush their fangs), just as you might from the bite of any other creature if you don't wash the wound thoroughly.

Midway City, CA

Interesting, suunto. That makes sense. For example, one of the worst effects of an alligator bite is the bacterial infection from the alligator's dirty teeth, which are frequenty in contact with stagnant water. Also, your story sounds the same as for plant viruses: although there is no documented case of a plant virus being transmitted to a human (to my knowledge, the last I heard), it's cautioned that people don't take chances on being the first to catch such a virus, therefore it's best to avoid contact with infected plants. For that matter, there's no documented case of a human being eaten by a killer whale, either, but obviously killer whales are fully capable of bestowing that honor upon some hapless human.

Savannah, GA

We get "spider bites" a few times a day from the ER. I work in microbiology and we culture these "spider bites". Funny thing about these "spider bites", there is never a spider to go with them, it is just assumed that a spider is responsible for the wound. These things used to be called boils and carbuncles but for some reason there is a huge urban myth about spider bites. A few years ago I found an article on the web cautioning ERs from diagnosing these MRSA and other bacteria infections as spider bites but I can't find it now. We have a poster in the department of some boils and other infections and how they are mistaken for "spider bites"


Most spiders cannot even break the skin of a human. I run around in the woods quite a bit and run into webs all the time. I used to dance around a bit but I don't even react anymore. I also frequentlly photograph, relocate, and otherwise interact with spiders and for some reason have never been bitten by a spider.

And there are no virus transmissions by spiders that I have heard of either. I wonder what the next hysterical myth will be.

Mount Vernon, KY

My daughter made a nurse a couple of years back and she has been scared to death of mersa ever since. She found some little red bumps on her back that reminded her of spider bits and she thought it could be this flesh eating bacteria. I don't know what could have cause it but it went away to her relief.

But get this, I constantly get spider venom in my eyes. That is right, 4 times now it has happened. I kill them with my hand and get so busy cleaning that I forget, wipe my eyes , and get it in there. It causes the eye to burn, itch, feels like something is in my eye, and it causes the flesh around the eye to swell. Last year I got some in my eye while I was outside building a pergola. It actually caused the pupil to dilate. Boy did it hurt. One pupil dilated and the other pupil was real small from the sunlight. It scared my daughter to death when she came out to say bye to me before she went to work. She thought I had had a stroke!

Mount Vernon, KY

And oh yes, I am no expert, but I did take a course in "Invertabrates" when I was working on my masters in biology. Spiders were the last section of that course. I believe that funnel spiders, the ones that build very thick webs in bushes like yews - are very poisonous. However, their fangs are so short that they can not pentrate our skins.

Sinks Grove, WV

The only truly dangerous 'funnel web spiders' are those found in Australia (Atrax robustus and relatives - see http://tinyurl.com/2ho355). Those called funnel web spiders in the US belong to an entirely different family (Agelenidae), and although large specimens are capable of biting if you handle them carelessly, they are not dangerous.

Jackson, TN

I am very allergic to any insect stings. So far last summer I was bitten in my bathroom on the left wrist. The spider was in a folded up towel. The itching was unreal, it swelled up and the area turned very red. I ended up getting medical care. The second insect I got stung by was a yellow jacket. This one choose my neck! Again the same reaction. That sting was 2 months ago and I still have a mark. Now I do not feel bad about killing spiders and, if I can catch them, yellow jackets!

Huntsville, AR

Hubby and I are transplants from the Southern Calif. area to here in Arkansas, and we'd made the transition 20 years ago.

We, for 20 years, have lived with the Brown Recluse spiders being in and out of our house. There's a saying here in Arkansas that there isn't a barn in Arkansas that doesn't have the B.R. spiders, and I've found that true!
I'd even venture to say that most, if not all houses in Arkansas have been at least invaded with ONE of them at one time--maybe I'm crazy, I don't know. But I know that all family, friends and neighbors have had them. We live with them showing up here and there in our house. At first I was really freaked out, and I DO have a healthy respect for them. I'm a 'trap and rescue' bug enthusiast, but these boogers can move really FAST, and I feel like I'd be the recipient of a bad bite from them--when I'd be only trying to relocate them. These are the ONE type of insect that I reluctantly kill.....it started when we had our one and only child--I had to think about him.

Anyway...
I think that some people are VERY affected by their bites--hubby's cousin has about a quarter-size HOLE in her thigh from a B.R. bite....
but I've heard that other people are less affected by their bites, and it's only like a normal spider bite to them..

So, if you're living with them all the time like I am....be aware and respect them, but don't let them freak you out too bad. For 20 years we three have lived with them, and so far so good. They tend to like wet areas, so where your pipes come up into your house and all other possible 'hole' areas--seal them up real good, and it will keep the population down.

This is just my personal opinion....I'm sure others may disagree...

Terri

Utica, NY

I have a question about common house spiders. See when I go to bed I wake up with these bites. it started off only two on my neck then it went to my arm an so forth. I have a couple pictures of these bites but i am at a loss on what is biting me at night when I sleep. Please help me. each bite I get days later ends up bubbling with a clear liquid...which i tend to pop only cause crazy...if anyone knows what kind of bug bite this is please please it will be a great help

This message was edited Jun 5, 2010 2:01 PM

Thumbnail by WiccanChick24
Sinks Grove, WV

This looks like a mild allergic reaction to a bite or sting that could have been from just about anything. it is extremely difficult to diagnose the cause of bites/bite-like symptoms without actually catching the culprit(s) in the act of biting.

Mount Vernon, KY

Be careful it could be MERSA. That is a staph infection and they some times start off looking like spider bites. Some times our immune system just gets run down and won't fight off what we normally would.

Decatur, GA

MRSA is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that is resistant to some antibiotics. True when we are run down, physically or emotionally, our immune system isn't as effective in fighting off invaders.
A somewhat mild allergic reaction can become much worse with another exposure to the same allergen. I hope you find whats bitting you. Bedbugs??
Helen

springfield area, MO(Zone 5b)

if it is happening at night I would suspect bed bugs or mosquitoes. Some mosquito bites really bother me, others not at all.
I have never heard of getting a viral infection from a spider, but I do know that tick bites can give you Lyme disease, which can cause multiple symptoms like chills, fever and aches.
My grandfather and my father in law have both had multiple BR spider bites, if you get bit by one of these you NEED an antibiotic, even if it 'looks ok'. By the time you realize it is not so ok, the infection or whatever that is that rots the skin is long taken hold, and it is very difficult to get rid of. There was a woman last week on MSN news article that had a breast removed due to a BR bite. I think there may have been some other things going on as well, can't remember all the details. But BR bites are nothing to ignore.

Utica, NY

come to find out it is from a cellar Spider. although not harmful to us I am allergic to their bite

Olympia, WA

Try putting sticky traps under your bed - or even in the dry bathtub. The results just might startle you to see just how many arachnid visitors stroll through and by. When spiders feed, they inject digestive enzymes into their intended meal. Once the enzymes turn the meal into a liquid state, they sip the juices back through their hollow straw-like mouth parts. If you apply that methodology to a bite in your skin, you can see how a reaction can occur. When you factor in the differing sensitivities we humans have, it makes sense that we get a plethora of stories.

springfield area, MO(Zone 5b)

Best thing to do to prevent spider bites, is to keep your bed made, up off the floor.
Move your furniture out every so often and sweep, vacuum and clean regularly. you would be suprised how many lurk around in the unvisited areas of your house. vacuum under the couch, shake your curtains out every couple of weeks, and such. I know when I vacuum it is easy to forget the ceiling, but those corners and nooks can house spiders. Be careful putting on clothing or shoes, coats ect that you haven't worn in a while, ect.

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

just another thread regarding the venom of spiders: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1139833/

Decatur, GA

On second reading of the bites in bed from Wiccanchick - maybe bed bugs!

Hyderabad, Pakistan

There are over 1 million identified species of insects and spiders (Arthropods) in the world today and many more are still awaiting discovery and formal categorization. Insects offer up a mostly overlooked,

(Zone 7a)

I'm waiting for the rest of the above post..."...a mostly overlooked...?"

^_^

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

wanted to add these pictures from google of the Brown Widow egg sacs. there are also some Black Widow photos mixed in. the Brown Widow has little barbs or bumps all over the sac while the Black Widow's is smooth. i had to do some research since the neighbor's house outside became infested with the Brown ones recently. the egg sacs were everywhere....so now i know what they are (creepy but cool): http://www.google.com/search?q=brown+widow+egg+sac&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=mFvGUeWkDIHC9QTq04DgAw&ved=0CCoQsAQ&biw=1191&bih=592

Dahlonega, GA

I have granddaddy longlegs that accumulate on my front porch. Then these brown spider with small abdomens but very long legs will come and eat the graddaddy longlegs. If you disturb the brown spiders they will start "spinning" to let you know that they are disturbed. The brown ones periodically get in the house and I usually catch them in a jar and release them outside. Now I want to make sure they are not brown recluse spiders. I really don't want to get too close to them as not to get bit. I also have larger spider (2) in my chicken house that is about the size of the palm of my hand. I thought they were just "garden spiders" with bodies the size of my thumb. Now I'm beginning to wonder if I need to revisit my spider issues as I have visiting grandchildren. I will try to post pictures when I get them.

Woodbridge, VA

As a child, my mother would call me to catch and release spiders that she found in the house. As I grew up I got so I usually just gently guide them into my cupped hands and rush to the door to let them out (if I escort them out at all - keeping a few inside is great for elimination of mosquitoes which Do bite).

WiccanChick24's bites look like she has an allergic reaction to mosquitoes... they do not look like bed bug bites or conehead bites, both of which also Do prey on humans. At any rate, after almost fifty years of Gently handling spiders I have finally been bitten Once - last year - when rather ungently squeezing one in my palm along with a handful of dead leaves I was picking off a house plant. If I'd known he was there, I would have been gentle and doubt he'd have bitten me! It felt like a hot needle jab, went away, then swelled up and turned red about a half hour later and the effects lasted for about four hours. That was that.

An expert at the National Zoo once commented to me that, being predators, almost all spiders have venom but most either don't have long enough fangs to penetrate our skin or even if they do, they use their bite only as a food getting behaviour... they drop and roll up like a berry or scamper away and hide or do something else for defense. They no more think of biting you for defense than we would think of licking someone as a defense. It might put off an attacker, but it just is not in our "bag of tricks" for defense. It IS in our set of eating behaviours... LiquidAmbar2, please don't just squish them with your hands - move them with your hands to your roses or your boxwoods... or heck, just put them up into a nice quiet unobtrusive corner of your pavillion where they will spin fabulous lacework to decorate your space and reduce your mosquito population!

Mount Vernon, KY

Will do Box Turtle.
Most times they have surprised me while cleaning, or pulling down my visor in my car as I am going down the road and one comes swinging down on it's thread.

You see it goes both ways - I get startled too just like them.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Spider bites hardly can threat human life, but the allergic issue is serious. Spiders - despite being archnids, and not bugs or insects - can initiate an allergic reaction to some people with their bites. And allergy does kill more people than spider bites itself. So be careful because most of people only discover an allergy before being bit.

Oh, sosrry for my bad english, I'm not a native :P

Decatur, GA

It sounds good to me romulo01. I think you meant to say people only discover an allergy 'after' being bit.. rather than 'before' being bit.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ooops, my bad!

After being bit!

Thank you, Helen!

Monkton, MD

I got bitten in July by a wolf spider, I think. It looked horrible and took about two weeks to fade and go away. Nothing systemic or truly harmful. It itched ten times greater than a horsefly or mosquito bite and was hard, scarlett red, and painful at times. It went away on its own thankfully. I think it just depends on how your personally react. Everyone is different. My husband has been bitten before with zero effects.

Thumbnail by tar167 Thumbnail by tar167
Minot, ND

@tar167 - See the statement by suunto in the first post in this thread "...some individuals react more severely than others, and may even experience general systemic reactions such as fever, malaise, stomach cramps, and nausea."

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

When I find a spider in the house, I look to see to see if it is skinny or plump. If it looks well fed, I assume it is eating some pest that I want eaten. If it is skinny, I carry it outside. I have never got bitten. I do kill Black Widows - they seem to like new construction and we were overrun with them when we first moved in. Now we have a better variety of spiders.

Near Central, IA(Zone 5a)

Yesterday, I found a spider in the house. It looked like a jumping variety. I would have taken "him" out, but the temps were dropping and we ended up with snow on the ground and below freezing temps. That would have been a bitter end for him. I took a few pictures and watched him go on his way. I made sure not to tell my husband, as he will squish. We always seem to have a flying insect now and again in the house during the winter, so maybe the spider will find a meal.

It was delightful to read this thread, that there are some who will not kill a spider, just because it's there. They really are beneficial to have around.

mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

chilly,
i have jumping spiders (love them) on most of my windowsills. i worry that they won't get enough to eat but they seem to survive okay. it makes cleaning difficult sometimes...but is that really a bad thing? LOL

Near Central, IA(Zone 5a)

That is funny, trackinsand! In the late summer, we always have funnel weavers just outside the windows and that is a great excuse for no outside window cleaning.

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