The brown recluse spider inhabits the majority of man-made structures in the eastern half of Kansas, but can be found throughout the state. Spiders of this species construct loose, irregular webs in undisturbed places. Indoors, it often resides behind baseboards or in wall voids and attics but may be found under shelves or boxes, in storage areas, or in clothing that is hanging or folded.Unlike the widow spiders, brown recluse spiders are hunters. From March or April through September they leave their webs each night to search for insects or other spiders as prey. Males and females are similar in appearance and their venoms are equally toxic. Juvenile spiders also are similar in appearance, except for size, and their venom also is potent. Adults range from ¼ to ½ inch in length (excluding legs).The legs are long, slender, not obviously hairy and somewhat darker than the tan or pale brown body. The most distinguishing characteristic, regardless of gender or age, is a dark brown or black violin-shaped marking on the fore part of the spider’s back—the neck of the violin pointing toward the abdomen. Because of this marking, these spiders are commonly called “fiddle-back” or “violin” spiders.
Bites and Symptoms
Bites by brown recluse spiders usually occur when people put on clothing or shoes in which a spider is hiding. Some bites occur at night when a spider hunting for insect prey has crawled onto a bed and is squeezed by a person rolling in his or her sleep.The amount of venom injected by the spider, depending on the spider’s size and recency of having expended venom on prey determines the seriousness of the bite. Victims may have no initial reaction, but they usually feel an immediate, painful stinging sensation at the bite site. The venom does not contain a neurotoxin, but it contains factors which cause blockage of blood vessels in the skin near the bite.
A blister forms at the bite site and a large area around it becomes red and swollen. After a few days, the blood-deprived tissue becomes watery and sloughs away leaving an ulcerous sore. The bite heals slowly, often requiring five to eight weeks to heal. If bitten by a brown recluse spider or a spider that you think may be one, apply a cold pack to the bite and go to a doctor immediately. Medical treatment and continued cool packs can reduce the severity of the bite.
Cosmetic surgery may be desired after the bite heals. In a very low percentage of cases, a bite victim’s internal organ systems become involved in reaction to the brown recluse bite, and the victim becomes seriously ill. Such cases may require hospitalization and symptomatic, lifesaving treatment.
Article reproduced for educational purposes from Kansas State University “Pests that affect Human Health” Entomology 361 publication.
Please keep this information in mind as you get out winter coats, clothes and Christmas decorations that have been in storage for months. If you have kids make sure they get in the habit of shaking out bike helmets, roller skates, baseball gloves etc. before putting them on.
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