Dangerous Spiders and How to Avoid Them
There are literally thousands of spider species in North America, all of which are important parts of a healthy ecosystem. While most pose no threat to humans and pets, there are a handful of species that are considered pests and can cause serious health problems or death. Here are some of the most common dangerous spiders and what to do about them.
Widow spiders (Latrodectus) are members of the comb-footed spider family and can be identified by their messy, tangled webs. The black widow is the most familiar widow species and is typically found in the American South and Southwest. However, there are also other varieties of the black widow that can be found in Northern states. Two other widow species, the false widow and the brown widow, are also located in many portions of the country.
All but the false widow posses the characteristic hourglass pattern on their undersides. Interestingly, only the females are dangerous. The small, drab-colored males are harmless. That said, any pest control company will tell you that the female widows bite can cause serious problems. These include severe pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches and severe muscle cramps. In small children, the elderly and those with compromised immunity, the bite can be fatal.
The most well-known species in this group (Loxosceles) can be identified by the telltale violin pattern on its head, or cephalothorax. These spiders are mainly restricted to the Southern states. However, there are other recluse varieties in many portion of the US that pose little or no threat. True to their name, recluses prefer to stay hidden and aren’t aggressive.
They’re wandering hunters, which means that they don’t spin webs. The danger of these spiders, while real, is dramatically over-blown. It’s common for people to mistake insect bites, MRSA and certain skin conditions as recluse bites, even when these cases occur outside of the spiders’ natural range.
Even if you live in an area where the recluse population is abundant, few actual bites occur. In one case, exterminators found more than 2,000 brown recluses in a family’s home. In the eight years the family had been living there, not a single bite occurred. Even if someone is bitten, the bite doesn’t always result in infection and necrosis. In healthy individuals, little more than time and an ice pack may be all that’s needed.