The Recluse Spider Warnings

It is almost Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. One thing this means that US citizens and I’d bet some Canadians will be receiving the annual Brown Recluse Spider Warnings via Email. In order to reduce the negative effects of this email spamish meme, I hereby inoculate you. If you get the email, which usually comes with dire warnings and lots of photographs of bad things happening to people’s flesh allegedly because of a recluse spider bite, just delete it.

Look at this map and read the caption:
i-ef75aa1524c60120505cfa8198fd8495-colorloxmap.jpg

This map is based on data collected by arachnologists and is provided courtesy of Rick Vetter. Generally, recluses can be expected to be uncommon at the margins of this range. Rarely, they are found outside of this normal distribution in very localized areas. Such rare encounters should not be interpreted as a broadening of the species typical range or as an indication of large populations throughout the area in which the unusual sighting was recorded.

The recluse spider packs a nasty bite, but is not as common or widespread as the email you receive will suggest, and it is not as dangerous either. The Brown Recluse Spider Project has more.

Comments

  1. #1 Chas
    February 23, 2009

    Yeah, in Oklahoma, we are terrified of them! It’s not particularly life threatening, but it sure is icky!

  2. #2 Russell
    February 23, 2009

    We have a deal with them: they don’t come in the house, and we send only licensed plumbers beneath the house. ;-)

  3. #3 MattR
    February 23, 2009

    What about the Speckled Recluse, though? Or is that only in Florin and Guilder?

  4. #4 Crystal D.
    February 23, 2009

    But I love being scared by my emails when the weather gets warmer! :( What about those pesky bees that are supposedly from Africa, what can you tell me about those?

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    February 23, 2009

    I’ve been stung by the African Killer bees a number of times. My daughter was stung by one as well. But we lived.

  6. #6 Lilian Nattel
    February 23, 2009

    Good to know about the bees too!

  7. #7 Russell
    February 23, 2009

    I thought killer bees were more aggressive, not more venomous?

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    February 23, 2009

    I think killer bees are basically regular bees but just a little more of everything. To be more exact, African honey bees are wild, and the “regular” honey bees are a domesticated version. In this case, domestication = more docile and not more honey. In fact, over time, domesticated bees bred increasingly for docility and probably some other traits have become less productive. This is why, in Brazil some years ago, someone had the idea of back crossing some regular domestic honey bees with wild African bees. The result was an “Africanized” honey bee, or essentially, a wild bee.

    The wild honey bee has larger swarms, is probably more likely to sting, is more aggressive in a swarm (i.e., more effective at swarming). Off hand I’m not sure if they have more venom or not. Not by much, if any. I’ve been stung by both and the both hurt about the same as far as I can tell.

  9. #9 ppnl
    February 23, 2009

    Never worried about recluse. Have no idea if they are here in Georgia … uh …uh oh. Gee thanks.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    February 23, 2009

    Only in half the state.

  11. #11 chezjake
    February 23, 2009

    It’s fairly obvious that the native range of the brown recluse spider has significant overlap with the incidence of rabid fundamentalist Christians. Is this a cause and effect relationship?

  12. #12 José
    February 23, 2009

    I’ve been stung by the African Killer bees a number of times. My daughter was stung by one as well. But we lived.

    Oh, but have you been electrocuted by the deadly Africanized lightning bugs?

  13. #13 Spiv
    February 24, 2009

    That map must be wrong, brown recluses are quite common here in Florida. Perhaps they figure we’re used to the scary bugs here so there’s no reason to warn us again.

    Either way about once or twice a year I hear about someone’s pet getting a nasty bite from bumbling into one in a garage or shed.

  14. #14 chris
    February 24, 2009

    I used to live in an area between apachea and arizonica and I saw one once in my bathroom, nestled against the wall behind the tank of the toilet.

    That wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I was sitting on said toilet at the time and not in a position to get out of the way.

  15. #15 marilove
    February 24, 2009

    Okay then. I grew up in the AZ/CA border. Brown recluses were pretty common, as were other very poisonous spiders and snakes. Hell, we used to poke scorpions to piss them off. And I’ve seen huge lizards the size of a house cat.

    And yet … I’ve never been bit, or stung, by anything.

  16. #16 zeolite
    February 24, 2009

    Although not shown on the map, I know that brown recluse spiders live in WI, my father was unfortunately bitten bye one on a camping trip (it was painful for him but didn’t cause any serious damage), and my UW college zoology professor cautioned us of their relative local abundance.

  17. #17 marilove
    February 24, 2009

    ( http://www.flowers.vg/flowers/photos/cflowers5728.jpg if picture doesn’t work )

    I once had that fall on my head in the shower. I am not easily freaked by spiders, having grown up around them, but that scared the living crap out of me.

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    February 24, 2009

    Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin: Hey, this map is accurate. I have been assured by the spider expert that made it, Dr. Cramer, that this is the case. I believe him.

    The AZ/CA was a different species. The recluse spiders swarming around in Florida are something else. (There are a lot of options there, I would imagine.

    The WI spiders are probably like the ones we has swarming all over NY when I was a kid. A common non-recluse spider that people told each other were recluse spiders but were not.

    It’s like cats choking on chicken bones. They don’t, but everybody thinks they do.

  19. #19 marilove
    February 24, 2009

    Yeah, I grew up in the “Deserta” area, in the middle of god awful nowhere, near Lake Havasu City. I’m not sure what species it was, but they were really common. A friend got bit once and FUCKING IGNORED IT. It was disgusting. Finally, he went to the doctor, who told him, had he waited much longer, he may have lost half his leg. Dumbass.

  20. #20 Spiv
    February 24, 2009

    Quite possible it’s something else, but increasingly unlikely as I do some inter-webs, office-chair “research.” The other things they linked to from the wiki article are spiders I know well and could easily identify. The recluse shown matches what we are used to referring to as a brown recluse shockingly well, though I can’t say I’m certain of the eye count. Next time I find one I’ll be sure to check that out.

    The other giveaway, to me, is the necrosis, which I’ve seen in a couple cats whose owners claimed was the result of a brown recluse bite. Not sure what else aside from a rattle snake would cause such a thing around here, and snake bites are usually pretty easy to identify (the dead cat is a giveaway).

    For reference we’re also quite familiar with brown widows (and black widows, of course), I doubt I’d mistake one for a recluse.

    Read this:
    http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/spiders/brown_recluse_spider.htm

    Kind of says “yeah, there’s been a few here and there but they were probably trucked in and are gone now.” Again, any suggestions for possible misidentification? Everything they mentioned are spiders I’m very accustomed to.

    Anyone have ideas on what else it could be? Odds are certainly against them apparently, so I’m left wondering what the other options are. No doubt we have a variety of creepy crawlies down here. Needless to say- next time I stumble across something I /think/ is a recluse, I’ll be capturing it for inspection.

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    February 24, 2009

    Spiv: Are you in the western Panhandle?

    From that link:

    I called the Florida Poison Control Network to confirm these numbers, and was cited 182 total cases and 96 in the Tampa region. The actual numbers are less important than the fact that a significant number of unconfirmed brown recluse spider bites are reported in the state every year. Yet not one specimen of brown recluse spider has ever been collected in Tampa, and the only records of Loxosceles species in the entire region are from Orlando and vicinity. A general review of the brown recluse, along with a critical examination of the known distribution of brown recluse and related spiders in Florida, seems in order at this time.

  22. #22 Ana
    February 24, 2009

    I used to have this great stylist, here in MN…he was bitten by a recluse that had traveled along with his IKEA order into his livingroom. His wife tossed the nest of hundreds into the woods out back. Anyway, I say I “used to have” a stylist ‘cuz he can now only use one arm.

    My boyfriend, here in MN, spent a good chunk of a spring/summer packing gauze into the wound of a roommate, who had been bitten and waited too too long for medical assistance – basically until it looked as though someone had come along and taken a half-dollar sized core-sample out of her leg. That one we think came home on/in her luggage from a trip south.

    Don’t worry, but don’t expect that there’s nothing to worry about.

  23. #23 Doyle
    February 24, 2009

    As noted on the website, isolated populations do exist outside of the rages shown on the map. My own understanding of the brown recluse is that it has an annoying tendency to crawl into clothes, shoes, etc. This may explain how some spiders get transported outside their normal range, and also why many of the reported bites seem to occur when people are dressing.

  24. #24 Spiv
    February 25, 2009

    Greg: back and forth between Orlando and Merritt Island. The majority I see in the Merritt Island area.

  25. #25 Michael Truvillion
    April 27, 2009

    I am from Chicago Illnios and i know that those spiders do not live there. I never saw them thank god because i would of been scared but this map is fake just to scare people.

  26. #26 Joe
    March 9, 2012

    Greg Laden how many times did you get stung by the bees

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    March 9, 2012

    A bunch.

  28. #28 LDG-magic
    california
    June 12, 2012

    i’v seen one in my sink and i drowned it can it die like that

  29. #29 LDG-magic
    June 12, 2012

    can it

  30. #30 felicia
    lacombe
    June 23, 2012

    cool are you talking about if it bites you computer will shut down:)

  31. #31 Dana Collins
    Thomaston,GEORGIA
    June 29, 2012

    I LIVE DOWN IN THE SOUTHERN PART OF GEORGIA,AND I’VE BEEN BITTEN TWICE BY A BROWN RECLUSE/FIDDLEBACK.THAT MAP HAS GOTTA BE WRONG.I AM NOT A BIG TRAVELER TO OF PICKED ONE UP AND TRANSPORTED IT HERE BUT I’M POSITIVE THAT I WAS BITTEN BECAUSE THE FIRST TIME I WAS BITTEN I ACTUALLY KILLED THE SPIDER AND TOOK IT W ME TO THE ER AND THEY CONFIRMED IT TO BE A BROWN RECLUSE.BUT THE MAP DOES SAY SOME OF GEORGIA,SO IT’S NOT THAT UNBELIEVABLE TO HAVE ME TELL YOU THEY’RE IN MOST PARTS OF GEORGIA.I JUST HATE ORCHIDS AND THAT GOES FOR ALL OF EM BIG OR LITTLE.THEY’RE THE WORST THING THAT I CAN IMAGINE ON ME BESIDES ONE OF THOSE LARGE WATERBBUGS THAT LOOK LIKE GIANT REACH AND THAT SOME CALL ROACHES.I’LL PICK ANY SNAKE UP ALL DAY LONG BUT LET ANY OF THE TWO ABOVE THE.TWO ABOVE GET ON ME AND I’M GONNA BE DOING A DANCE.HA HA

  32. #32 julia
    middle TN
    June 30, 2012

    just killed a tranchula …me and my boyfriend we were on the back porch doing a puzzle and the spider was crawling on a spare tire and he killed it .I said that is a tranchula we had a neighbor’s friend whom was a former Carolina Ranger come and look at it and he said that it was a tranchula. what is a tranchula doing in middle TN.?????

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    June 30, 2012

    OMG, I have no idea. Maybe it came in with a shipment of bananas.

  34. #34 matthew of canberra
    australia
    July 7, 2012

    I had to look them up, but these recluse spiders sound awesome. White-tails have traditionally been accused of having necrotic bites, but I think that’s been debunked. I’ve avoided ever studying biology, but it amazes me what a few little protein molecules can do.

  35. #35 Sarah Gonzalas
    florida
    July 7, 2012

    i have them in my covers sheets and shipments i even find them in my food i got used to it cuz i lived with them for ever and we got a deal: they stay outta my house i wont spray them with wd40 and light them on fire XD it works u should try it but out of flamable areas. my great great grandma got one burried in her stomach and a day later had a spaz and died on the floor. we didnt find out till a few minutes later it came out of the burrow. its scarring :O

  36. #36 skye todd
    bristol
    July 10, 2012

    i have been bitten on the chin by one before on holiday

  37. #37 gabby matthews
    oklahoma
    August 11, 2013

    ohh I hate those things I found one today but I didn’t know what king I got a good look at it and I went on the internet and pulled up pictures that’s exactly what it looked like. I found this blog and I want to know if they can do anything besides bite and what all they can do to me im only 12 but a total science geek so I thought I could research them for a project do u have anything that can help … I want to learn more about them.

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