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 (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.
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.
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.
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.