Spiders rarely bite unless they feel threatened, and most bites are harmless to humans.
Spider bites can cause various symptoms, including redness, pain, and swelling, or they may go unnoticed. Redness, pain, and swelling are common reactions to insect bites and other skin injuries. However, it is difficult to know for sure that a spider bit you unless you saw the spider do the biting.
On a global scale, only a handful of spider species have fangs and venom potent enough to cause harm to humans. There are approximately 30 species of widow spiders and more than 140 species of recluse spiders in the world.
• Common symptoms of a spider bite include a red, swollen, and possibly itchy or painful bump on the skin. Most people experience no additional symptoms after being bitten by a harmless spider.
• While bacterial infections are a common cause of skin sores, they are not the only possible cause.
• Some spider bites, like those from widow and recluse spiders, can have serious consequences.
The venom that the spider injects causes severe spider bite symptoms. The severity of the symptoms is determined by the type of spider, the amount of venom injected, and how sensitive your body is to the venom.
Living in spider-infested areas and disturbing their natural habitat are both risk factors for spider bites. Widow and recluse spiders prefer warm climates and dark, dry areas.
Habitat of the widow spider
Widow spiders are found throughout the United States, except Alaska, and are more common in rural areas. They can also be found in Europe. They are more active during the summer and prefer to live in:
• Unused pots and gardening tools
• Wooden stacks
• During the winter, closets, and cupboards
The natural environment for recluse spiders
South America and the southern half of the United States are home to many recluse spiders, also called brown spiders. The spiders got their name because they prefer to remain in peace. During the warmer months, they become more active. Their natural habitat is the interior of a building:
Places to look include cluttered attics and basements; the backs of bookcases and dressers; and seldom-opened upper cabinets.
It’s not uncommon for there to be a high number of bites reported first thing in the morning because they spent the night tangled up in someone’s bedding or their clothes.
When they go outside, they look for places that are dry, dark, and quiet, like underneath rocks or in tree stumps.
Bites from widow and recluse spiders are extremely dangerous, but rarely fatal, even to young children.
Recluse spider bites can cause serious injuries that take weeks or months to heal and often leave noticeable scars.
Typically, spiders only bite in self-defense when pinned between your skin and another object.
Avoiding spider bites
• Find out what dangerous spiders look like and where they like to live.
• When handling boxes or firewood that have been stored, as well as when cleaning out sheds, garages, basements, attics, and crawl spaces, wear a long-sleeved shirt, hat, and long pants tucked into socks, gloves, and boots.
• Before using, check and shake out your gardening gloves, boots, and attire.
• Make use of insect repellents like DEET.
• Pay close attention to the instructions on the package.
• Installing snug-fitting screens on windows and doors, caulking openings where spiders can enter, and using indoor insecticides that are safe to use will keep insects and spiders out of your home.
• Avoid piling firewood against your home’s walls and remove or reduce any debris or piles of rocks or lumber from the area around your house.
• Verify that beds are not pushed up against walls and that only their legs touch the ground. Don’t keep anything under the bed, and avoid letting the bedclothes drag on the floor.
• Get rid of the spiders and webs in your house.
• Instead of squeezing a spider against your skin, flick it off with your finger if it is on your body.
• Wear protective eyewear, gloves, and a surgical mask when cleaning tarantula enclosures.