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Spiders in Your Home

October 15, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Taylor: Today we're talking about spiders in your home. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Leslie Burger, Mississippi State University Extension Assistant Professor in the Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Aquaculture.

So Leslie, I occasionally find spiders in my home. Spiders are not really my favorite animals, so I'm wondering whether I should be concerned.

Leslie Burger: That's a good question, Amy. At you're not alone. Human homes provide good habitats for spiders as well as for other small insects and even some small mammals. From a spider's perspective, a human home is climate controlled, safe from potential predators, and it's a source of insect prey. But there is one species of spider that you do not want living in your house, and that is the Brown Recluse.

Amy Taylor: Yes, that sounds really scary. Now, why should I be concerned about this species and not others?

Leslie Burger: Well, all spiders are predatory animals so they can bite. And some of those bites can be uncomfortable, somewhat like a bad mosquito bite. But the bite of the Brown Recluse is venomous, and this venom may destroy skin and tissue at the site of the bite.

Amy Taylor: So this species of spider, actually it lives in our houses.

Leslie Burger: It can. In the wild, Brown Recluses prefer to make their home under bark or fallen trees because they can find food and shelter there. But in your home Recluses are commonly found in things like cardboard boxes or closets, garages and sheds, or even inside hanging clothes or shoes. As the name implies, they are reclusive. So they prefer to hide in quiet places where they're unlikely to be disturbed.

Amy Taylor: Okay, so that's a list of very many places that we often go to find these spiders. Now, how do I know if the spiders at my house are Brown Recluse or some other kind?

Leslie Burger: First, Brown Recluses do not build the classic web that you think about at Halloween. So if you see a spider in this kind of web, it is not a Recluse. Instead, Recluses build a messy shelter of web inside some high hidden spot. Generally Brown Recluses are about the size of a nickel if you were to draw a circle around their legs and their body. Sometimes they'll get about as big as a quarter. They generally have a waxy light brown coloration with a dark fiddle shaped pattern on their back. Their legs are tapered and smooth with no stripes or spots. In general, I think they look rather dainty, especially when you compare them to the Husky Wolf Spider that can also be commonly found in homes.

Amy Taylor: Now you mentioned earlier that a Brown Recluse bite is venomous. Does this mean someone should see a doctor if they think they have been bitten by a Brown Recluse?

Leslie Burger: In most cases, Brown Recluse bites will heal without any special medical attention. Unlike a bee or a wasp sting, Recluse bites are painless initially. But as with other insect bites, a blister or red spot with some pain and itching may later develop. Simple first aid practices such as rest and ice to reduce the swelling and some pain relief medication, will help with those symptoms. But if an open sore or an ulcer begins to develop, it is very important to seek medical attention.

Amy Taylor: So how should people avoid getting bit by a Brown Recluse?

Leslie Burger: The best advice is to use care when handling items that have been in storage, especially if they were stored in older structures that might have a population of Brown Recluse. Wear gloves and long sleeves to protect your hands and arms. Open boxes carefully looking under the flaps for any stowaways, shakeout footwear, and old clothing that hasn't been worn for awhile.

Unfortunately a visit by an exterminator may help, but the reclusive nature of this spider makes it difficult to rid a home of them entirely.

Amy Taylor: Sometimes we might get bitten and not even know it. Could you maybe explain that a little bit?

Leslie Burger: As we mentioned earlier, the bite itself is painless. So if you were to develop a bite mark on your skin and then that continued to develop into a large ulcer and become very painful, then that's when you should seek medical treatment. Because you've got something going on there beyond the ordinary mosquito bite.

Amy Taylor: And sometimes they can bite you so deep that the flesh that surrounds it, or even the bone that heals back there could even fuse differently and might even make you look different in that little spot.

Leslie Burger: Right. Yeah, there are some consequences and obviously secondary infection is what those things that the doctors are looking to prevent. They really can't stop the progression of the disease or the bite toxin, but they can prevent any secondary infections.

Amy Taylor: Today we've been speaking with Leslie Burger, Assistant Extension Professor. I'm Amy Taylor Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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