Brown hermit hitchhiked from Kansas to Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (WDAF) – For many people, the sight of a brown recluse spider makes them squirm and scream. Still, it was an opportunity for an Alaska spider lover to see one up close, as they don’t naturally live in icy climates.
Keith Burgess runs Spiders of Alaska, a Facebook group founded to identify spiders across the state and hopefully find the fabled native brown recluse.
In August, a member of a Facebook group reached out to Burgess after driving a U-Haul truck from Winfield, Kansas to Palmer, Alaska.
“She said to me, ‘Hey! I think I found a brown recluse. I’m just from Kansas. ‘ She included a picture, and by that point I was pretty knowledgeable about brown recluses and thought, ‘Yeah, that’s a brown recluse male.’ “
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The brown recluse was in one of the paintings the woman had loaded into her truck. She drove over 3,000 miles and put it in her garage in Alaska.
“The possibility that new spiders will appear here or spread to other places is possible. The probability that they will settle in this new place is 50-50. It depends on whether it has food and shelter and can survive the climate, ”said Burgess. “A brown recluse up here in Alaska is not going to happen. That’s a desert spider, and that’s Alaska, man. We don’t have any of the food they have. We don’t have cockroaches [and] We have no crickets. “
Burgess said he has been called on several other possible sightings of brown recluses in Alaska, but they are primarily doppelgangers.
- Titiotus sp. – False wolf spider – found in California.
- Male Kukulcania sp. – Column Weavers – Southern United States
- Philodromidae – Walking Crab Spiders – Any State
- Tegenaria domestica – Barn Funnel Weavers – central and northern United States, including Alaska.
- Scytodidae – Spitting Spiders – Pretty much every state except Alaska
- Thanatus vulgaris – Cricket Thief Spider – Ohio, south of Georgia and western Idaho, also found in California. Often found in supplies of crickets in the states.
- Pholcidae – cellar spiders – all states
Over the weekend, Burgess ran a competition on its Facebook page to name its newest brown recluse. The winning name: Stowaway Steve.
“One of my members in my group gave me a whole bunch of spiders after I bought some brown recluses,” said Burgess. “I bought these brown recluses from a breeder in Oklahoma last year just so I would have a few on hand here in Alaska so I could teach people.”
Even Burgess admits that he hasn’t always had a passion for spiders. He said he was arachnophobic until about a decade ago. It was only when he came across one he had never seen before that he decided to look into it.
He has since made friends with experts and has had access to more information than he ever thought.
“I enjoy more the fact that everything I used to know was wrong and how to teach new things when you are wrong, and that wrong doesn’t mean this is the end of the world,” said Burgess. “There is always something else. Something new can emerge and change your perspective on everything. Now I own black widows and brown recluses. “
“Spiders of Alaska” has grown to over 6,000 members and has earned nicknames like “Spider King” and “Spider God”.
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Although he knows it’s winking, he says he still has so much to learn and wants to keep spreading information to help people understand them and lose their fear of the eight-legged creatures.
“Spiders aren’t bad. They don’t want to hurt you. They just want to eat anything that wants to hurt, ”said Burgess.