It is Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. 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 ERV
    June 1, 2011

    They really are all over MO and OK. Mom keeps a pristine home, but every time you open up a closet to get a new towel/sheets/etc, you shake em out, cause theres probably going to be one in it.

    Or the shower.

    Or the bathroom sink. *twitch*

    But in 28 years Ive never gotten bitten or known anyone whos been bitten.

  2. #2 Russell
    June 1, 2011

    Wait! I’m in the red/yellow. There’s no key on your map. Am I safe or in danger?

    Well….

    I guess I can’t bring my to worry too much. It’s an area where we’re used to all sorts of beasties that suck our blood, chew our flesh, nest in our beards, and make suicide dives into our wine. So far, I haven’t suffered dengue, chagas, babesiosis, or large chunks of flesh necrotizing. When I give blood, I tell the bank they can have what the mosquitos have left. Sometimes, I understand why the Karankawas smeared themselves in alligator grease. I half understand why they ate Spaniards. That may be the parasites talking. Or the wine.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    June 1, 2011

    The reclusa are in the red area where it says reclusa.

  4. #4 Ian
    June 1, 2011

    Yep, I’m in the middle of the red area? Should I panic?

    Actually I never took the hype seriously until I got a bite…in a motel in Missouri. Then I looked into it, found that website, and realised that (a) it probably was a brown recluse bite, and (b) I’d seen them before…in my apartment. But it’s hard to get too worked about spiders when you’re dodging tornadoes :)

  5. #5 gwen
    June 1, 2011

    My ex had a nasty spider bite about 30 years ago that left a large necrotized area requiring surgical debridement and packing. He was off work for about a month from that bite. Never did discover what kind of spider it was. The only poisonous spider we have around here that I know of, is the black widow.

  6. #6 Marion Delgado
    June 2, 2011

    The cousin of a friend of a friend of mine listened to you, broke the chain, and 1 week later exactly was bitten by a radioactive brown recluse spider. And now he has emo hair!

  7. #7 Bruce H
    June 2, 2011

    Living in Houston, we run across them from time to time. The recluse name is certainly appropriate, as they are very shy little creatures. When I worked at a marina, I often found them in the outdoor lighting, which I had to maintain. They liked to hang out and not do much other than eat mosquitos or whatever other small insects they could catch. Not once did one get on me, much less bite me, despite my changing the bulbs in their homes on a frequent basis.

  8. #8 Birger Johansson
    June 2, 2011

    If they have been breeding in a radioactive dump site and come in contact with porcine animals, this could be the end result:

  9. #9 Mark P
    June 2, 2011

    Interesting. I live in NW Georgia, well within the brown recluse range, but I have never seen one in my 61 years. On the other hand, I could probably walk out into the yard and find half a dozen black widows, and have not been bitten by them either.

    But scorpions are a different matter. I have been stung twice by our small, brown scorpions. Once was while I was reclining on the sofa watching TV. It fell from a beam and landed directly between my legs and stung me, presumably out of embarrassment. The second time was when I rolled over in bed onto one that was under the sheet. So they will seek you out to sting you, and if you hide in bed, they will go there, too. There is no way to avoid the sting of the scorpio! Of course neither sting was quite as bad as a typical bee sting, or anywhere near as bad as a wasp sting. Or a fire ant. But I did check between the sheets for quite a while after that.

  10. #10 rob
    June 3, 2011

    and people wonder why we live in Minnsota? sure it’s colder than other states. but we don’t have hurricanes, very many earthquakes. no poisonous spiders or crocs or alligators. no fire ants, killer bees, water buffalo. no lions, or tigers or…wait. bears. we gotz bears.

    the only dangerousy type animals i can think of are:

    rattle snakes..
    moose.
    black bear.
    occasional cougar.
    a pack of wolves.

  11. #11 Mary
    June 4, 2011

    @Rob,

    You left mosquitos off the list.

    I moved to the Twin Cities from Chicago for work, and you know where they don’t have hurricanes, earthquakes, killer bees etc OR rattle snakes, cougars, and packs of wolves? Chicago. Also they have public transportation so you can go out for a drink now and then without a designated driver.

    (But I guess the proper response to that is: “But Chicago is rife with that most dangerous of animals — Man!” Crime rates, etc. Still, given the choice between a mugging every eight years and dozens of mosquito bites every year… Well, I think I’d pick the muggings.)

  12. #12 rob
    June 6, 2011

    @Mary:

    oops, forgot mosquitoes.

    but they don’t mug you or kill you.

    (at least not very often)

  13. #13 Hank Fox
    August 21, 2011

    Black bears are safer than dogs. In the U.S., more people get attacked and killed every year by COWS. Not to mention traffic accidents, smoking, falling in the shower … or, hell, being exposed to shellfish or peanut butter.

  14. #14 hoary puccoon
    August 22, 2011

    Hank Fox @13– “Black bears are safer than dogs.”

    No.

    Dogs attack more people because there are a lot more dogs and they live in much closer contact with people. (And, in many cases, they have been trained by their owners to attack.)

    I wouldn’t advise people to approach stray dogs on the road. But it is much, much more dangerous to approach a bear that is begging for food, as they used to do in places like Yellowstone Park. They used to have bear maulings there every year, too. Whereas my daughter picked up a stray dog off the road and kept him in a home with children for nine years, without his causing a single human injury.

    It’s true you’re more likely to get attacked by a dog than by a bear, but that doesn’t mean bears are ‘safer’ in any way.