Nature Note: Two poisonous spiders | news


As the name suggests, the brown recluse is a brown spider with relatively long legs. There are no traces on the abdomen. The hermit is also known as the fiddleback spider. Can you see why it’s called that in the photo? There is a dark brown, inverted, violin-shaped marking on the cephalothorax (the head and chest are fused in spiders). The body is less than half an inch long and the male is slightly smaller than the female. The male’s belly is darker brown than that of the female.

The brown recluse is found primarily in the Midwestern states, those around Missouri and Arkansas. Unlike the slow moving black widow, it is a fast moving spider. It’s called a hermit because it’s “shy” and remains invisible in dark, dry areas like barns, sheds, attics, and closets. We see them often in our house, especially in late autumn when it gets colder. It’s not uncommon to find one in a sink or bathtub in the morning. It will be there because it cannot climb the porcelain surface. If you can find a brown spider in the house and it has stripes or other markings on its belly, it is not a brown recluse. The hermit’s belly is unmarked (see photo).

Bites are unintentional, usually when a person puts on clothes, shoes, gloves, and other items that have not been worn for a long time and a spider has moved in. Most of the bites are minor and do not cause symptoms. However, in a few cases, medical treatment may be required. While the bite is painless, mild to severe pain develops within a few hours, accompanied by redness, itching and a blister at the bite site. This is often followed by nausea, chills, and headaches. The bladder becomes an ulcer that can take weeks or months to heal. When the ulcer begins to heal, the dead tissue will be removed and a skin graft may be required.

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