RICHARD FAGERLUND: Documented fatal recluse bites don’t exist - Albuquerque Journal

RICHARD FAGERLUND: Documented fatal recluse bites don’t exist

I recently saw a post on Facebook about how dangerous brown recluse spiders are. That is not true.

A few years ago in Lenexa, Kan., 2,055 brown recluse spiders were found in a single home over a period of six months. Additional collections from typically infested homes in Missouri and Oklahoma in 2001 yielded 45 and 30 brown recluse spiders, respectively.

Despite these infestations, nobody was bitten in any of the three homes. Despite this, physicians from areas where brown recluse spiders aren’t even found often diagnose brown recluse bites.

It is a fact that there is not a single documented case of anyone dying from a brown recluse bite. They have painful bites and can cause damage, but they are not confirmed to have fatal bites. Black widows, on the other hand, can be fatal. They kill about three people every two years. So, black widows kill one or two people a year, brown recluse spiders don’t kill anyone.

On the other hand, there are 67,000 cases of pesticide poisoning in the U.S. every year, with an average of 27 people dying annually. That is equivalent to how many people black widows kill in 18 years. What is more dangerous, spiders or the pesticides misused to control them?

Richard Fagerlund.
Richard Fagerlund.

Here is some info on other spiders.

False black widows

(Theridiidae –Steatoda grossa)

The false black widow is often mistaken for the real black widow. They are about the same size and the same color. The false black widow does not have the red hourglass marking on its abdomen. It usually has a yellowish band across the front portion of its abdomen on top.

It originally came from Europe and is found along both coasts and the states that border the Great Lakes. It has been found in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, as well as a few other inland states. It is absolutely harmless and, like the real black widow, it is very timid and non-aggressive.

Hobo spiders

(Agelenidae – Tegenaria agrestis)

The hobo spiders, or the aggressive house spiders, are in the genus Tegenaria. Since 1982, many brown recluse spider bites in the Northwest were shown to actually be hobo spider bites. Tegenaria agrestis was first introduced into the port of Seattle in the late 1920s and has been moving south ever since. It is now found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and much of Utah. I have seen a couple of specimens collected in northwestern New Mexico, so it isn’t impossible for them to spread further south to our area.

They originally came from Europe, where they are most common in homes. Generally, these spiders are yellow to pale tan in color with long legs. These spiders occur in highest frequency in July through September and reproduce during this period. Females produce an egg sac that is placed near the opening of the funnel in their webs.

Although the bite of this species is not considered to be as dangerous as that of either the brown recluse or widow spiders, it can cause a similar ulceration or lesions of the skin, as the brown recluse can, and may, involve systemic reactions. The venom is a necrotic type that can cause tissue death and sloughing of the skin next to the bite. The wound can require up to six months to heal.

Dogs and cats are also bitten, with some deaths occurring.

Common house spiders

(Agelenidae – Tegenaria domestica)

This may be one of the most common spiders found in homes in the country.

It is found in every state, most Canadian provinces and virtually all over the world. The cephalothorax (section where legs are attached) is shiny brown with two longitudinal stripes running down the middle. The abdomen is grayish with a series of chevron-shaped markings running down the middle to the end. The legs are brownish-gray with black bands.

The similar and more aggressive hobo spider does not have bands on its legs. The common house spider is harmless and feeds on a lot of household pest insects, so can be considered beneficial.

Tarantulas

(Theraphosidae)

Tarantulas are very large hunting spiders. You often see the males crossing the road after a rain. They are looking for females to mate with. Although they are fearsome looking, they are not at all dangerous. A large one can deliver a painful bite if molested, but they are not lethal.

That is a tarantula on my face in the column photo. Female tarantulas have been known to live up to 25 years in captivity, while males only live for a year after they reach maturity.

If you have any bug questions, you can contact me at askthebugman2013@gmail.com.

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