Dangerous Spiders and How to Avoid Them

Mike Bonds is the technology director for NYC Pest Pros, a NYC based pest control company that focuses on education, awareness and green sustainability.

There are literally thousands of spider species in North America, all of which are important parts of a healthy ecosystem. While most pose no threat to humans and pets, there are a handful of species that are considered pests and can cause serious health problems or death. Here are some of the most common dangerous spiders and what to do about them.

Widow Spiders

Black Widow spider

Widow spiders (Latrodectus) are members of the comb-footed spider family and can be identified by their messy, tangled webs. The black widow is the most familiar widow species and is typically found in the American South and Southwest. However, there are also other varieties of the black widow that can be found in Northern states. Two other widow species, the false widow and the brown widow, are also located in many portions of the country.

All but the false widow posses the characteristic hourglass pattern on their undersides. Interestingly, only the females are dangerous. The small, drab-colored males are harmless. That said, any pest control company will tell you that the female widows bite can cause serious problems. These include severe pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches and severe muscle cramps. In small children, the elderly and those with compromised immunity, the bite can be fatal.

Recluses

Brown recluse spider

The most well-known species in this group (Loxosceles) can be identified by the telltale violin pattern on its head, or cephalothorax. These spiders are mainly restricted to the Southern states. However, there are other recluse varieties in many portion of the US that pose little or no threat. True to their name, recluses prefer to stay hidden and aren’t aggressive.

They’re wandering hunters, which means that they don’t spin webs. The danger of these spiders, while real, is dramatically over-blown. It’s common for people to mistake insect bites, MRSA and certain skin conditions as recluse bites, even when these cases occur outside of the spiders’ natural range.

Even if you live in an area where the recluse population is abundant, few actual bites occur. In one case, exterminators found more than 2,000 brown recluses in a family’s home. In the eight years the family had been living there, not a single bite occurred. Even if someone is bitten, the bite doesn’t always result in infection and necrosis. In healthy individuals, little more than time and an ice pack may be all that’s needed.

Hobo Spider

hobo spider

The hobo spider (Tegenaria) is restricted to the Pacific Northwest and is part of the funnel-web family, not to be confused with Australia’s Sydney Funnel Web. They look strikingly similar to the average wolf spider, with the exception that they build and inhabitsheet-like webs with a funnel at the end. There are many other types of funnel-web builders that are harmless, however, so learning to properly distinguish them is important.

Asking a pest control company how to distinguish them is a good start. With hobo spiders, the males are more toxic than females, particularly the subadults. Bite symptoms can include pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, swelling and necrosis.

If these spiders or any of their variants are in your area, it’s important to be cautious. Never put your hands in places you can’t see into, and always wear thick leather gloves when handling wood or debris. Keeping clutter out of corners and eliminating entry points is also recommended. It’s also a good idea to call in a pest control service to spray your home against this pest problem.

Controlling Spiders

trapped spider

It’s best to take preventative measures instead of having to deal with one of these intimidating creatures in person. Avoid having piles of junk or clutter in your house or garage. Never stick your hand into boxes or anywhere where you can not see into the space. These are prime places where spiders take up residence. It’s best advised to not deal with these types of spiders on your own as they are no easy feat for the average homeowner.

Seek out professional help from a local company. If you are dealing with a spider situation in an outdoor garden, there are some excellent eco-friendly pest control techniques that you may employ. Additionally, there is no shortage of excellent resources online where you can find more helpful information on dealing with these dangerous spiders and other pests.

Mosquitoes That Drink Blood By The Gallon: Meet The Gallinipper

Gallinipper

If a regular mosquito was a smart car, than the gallinipper would be a Mack truck.

It’s the goliath of all mosquitoes. A biting bug that is so terrifying that it has emptied entire schoolyards of screaming children.

They are called gallinippers because it is believed they can nip a gallon of your blood. The worst part is that they are expected to invade South Florida in big numbers this mosquito season.

What Is A Gallinipper? 

We are headed to rainy season, and we all know that that means mosquitoes; and the largest blood sucking mosquito in the U.S. is the ‘Shaggy-Legged’ Gallinipper. The gallinipper, properly known as Psorophora ciliata, is easy to identify by its large size and the zebra-like pattern it has on it’s hairy legs.

Gallinippers favor cool shady areas with lots of standing water. These mosquitoes will lay their eggs in the soil, where they can remain dormant for several years before a heavy rain finally releases them. Adult gallinippers can fly upwards of two miles in search of a blood meal. Only female gallinippers bite, feeding on human or animal blood. They are also known to go after pets, wild animals and even fish. The voracious pests feed day and night–unlike everyday mosquitoes, which generally feed only at dawn and dusk.

The Gallinipper’s Bite 

The most notorious characteristic of the gallinipper is it’s extremely painful bite. When it bites you, you know it! One bite victim likens a bite to that of a tiny drill; another victim referred to a gallinipper bite as a stabbing knife. The gallinipper’s bite is strong enough to bite through clothing. Since the mosquito is so big, you’ll likely feel the gallinipper land on you before it is able to pierce your skin with it’s massive proboscis.

The mosquito got it’s name because of the amount of blood it can drink at any one time–gallinipper because it can nip a gallon of blood. The truth is gallinippers drink nowhere near a gallon of blood at one time. A victim would have to be attacked multiple times, by a huge swarm of gallinippers, before you would lose a gallon of blood.

Gillinipper’s Size

How Big Is The Gallinipper? 

The gallinipper is twenty times bigger then the average mosquito; about the size of a quarter.

Palm Beach County Mosquito Control expert Gary Goode says “it really lets you know when it lands on you… It practically breaks your arm. It’s almost impossible for the gallinipper to sneak up on you.

Gallinippers Invading Florida 

Every summer, depending on the rainfall, the Sunshine state braces for the swarms of mosquitoes that plague the state… including the gallinipper. The mosquito’s eggs that were laid last year could produce a bumper crop of the blood-sucking bugs this summer if Florida sees a soggy rainy season.

When the live gallinippers swarm, the phones start ringing off the hook at Palm Beach County Mosquito Control.

The gallinipper is found in the western most; flood prone, parts of Palm Beach County during the rainy season.

The Bad News About The Gallinipper 

• Are huge and intimidating—20x larger than regular mosquito

• Feed on human and animal blood

• Painful bites

• Frequently emerge after rain—which Florida gets a lot of

• Mosquito repellent does little to ward off the gallinipper, mostly because you’d have to use an entire can of DEET bases repellent before the massive mosquito would ever notice it.

The Good News About The Gallinipper 

• Don’t occur in great numbers in Central or South Florida

• Because of it’s size, it’s almost impossible for the gallinipper to sneak up on you

• Are not known to spread diseases like West Nile Virus

• Lifespan is only about a week

• Eat the larvae of their smaller mosquito cousins

• Continually sprayed by Florida mosquito control professionals to reduce numbers

The Truth About The Gallinipper 

The reports by the local media have made it sound like swarms of gallinippers are attacking Florida residents, drinking gallons of blood, slaughtering people by the thousands. These reports sound like something out of a made for TV movie on the Syfy Channel.

Gallinippers do exist. They have painful bites. Florida residents might see one or two this rainy season. Like all other mosquitoes, they do require a consistent pest control strategy to control their populations.

The real truth is that gallinippers will not break your arm when they land on you, and they won’t drink a gallon of your blood. The term “gallinipper” isn’t recognized by most entomologists, but over the past century, the word — and the insect — entered popular legend through Southern folktales, minstrel shows and blues songs, according to a report from the University of Florida.