What Types of Spiders Should You Be Concerned About?

Spiders are often thought of as some of the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. In many ways this is true: spiders are great for controlling the population of other insects, largely avoid humans, and play a key role in our ecosystem. However, spiders have their misunderstood reputation because of their intimidating appearance and their venomous bite. Every spider is poisonous, and that’s important because this valuable tool is what spiders use to paralyze and dispatch their prey. However, for the overwhelming majority of spiders, this venom isn’t nearly enough to cause any sort of serious damage to humans. But in some cases they can, and it’s important to be aware of these potentially dangerous types of spiders.

Here are three types of spiders you should be aware of for two reasons: first, they can be significantly more dangerous to humans than most other species, and they are commonly found in at least one region of the United States.

Brown Recluse

Brown recluse spiders are regarded with fear due to the potency of their venom and how hard it is to spot them. Commonly located throughout the western and southern US, these brown, soft-bodied spiders grow to no larger than half of an inch in length, and the vast majority of that length comes from long legs that are often double the length of their entire body. They are also referred to as “fiddleback” spiders due to one defining feature: a dark-brown coloring pattern on the back of their head that resembles the shape of a violin body. Beyond that, their brownish beige color makes them blend in virtually anywhere: on the side of a house, on a tree trunk, in a bush or plant, in a lawn, and so much more. However, despite their reputation, they are not known for being aggressive, and will typically only bite as a form of last resort self-defense.

Brown recluse spider venom is unmistakable: it creates an instant stinging sensation at the bite location that gradually gets worse and worse over the span of the next several hours. A brown recluse bite is notoriously painful at full strength, and the bite location can spread into a pus-filled blister within approximately eight hours. As the venom continues to work, it rots away the flesh around the bite location, causing it to expose the underlying muscle beneath the skin. It isn’t uncommon to need a small skin graft to fully repair the issue. While this venom isn’t necessarily fatal to all humans, young children and those with immune system or other health problems can experience other physiological effects.

Black Widow

Black widows are perhaps the most well-known of the “dangerous” spider species in the United States for one distinctive feature: the trademark bright-red hourglass design on the abdominal section of their otherwise solid-black body. These spiders can grow quite a bit larger than a brown recluse, and they are found more commonly as well, being in every single US state except for Alaska. They are often found in trash piles, wood piles, ash piles, near trash cans or dumps, under home eaves, and even in buried water or gas meter holes. While the females typically die off after laying eggs during the summer or fall, some make their way indoors during winter months, so they can even be seen year-round.

Black widow venom is highly toxic, causing a similar searing pain to that of the brown recluse spider. However, black widow venom can also cause a wide variety of other more serious symptoms. Pain from a bite can spread to the chest, back, arms, legs, and abdomen within a few minutes. Within a few hours, that same venom can cause sweating, chills, delirium, abdominal cramping, spasms, and so much worse. In extreme cases, it can even trigger appendicitis, colic, and food poisoning-like symptoms. It’s a good idea to treat the exterior of your home for spiders purely to prevent any of these bugs from taking refuge near where you or your family may be.

Tarantula

The term “tarantula” actually refers to one of hundreds different species of large, hairy spiders from the family Theraphosidae. Here in the US, these spiders are frequently found in desert climates throughout the southern and western US (including the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and western parts of Texas). These spiders are renowned for two things: their tremendous size and their hairy appearance. The California Desert Tarantula, commonly found throughout the Mojave Desert of California, Nevada, and Arizona, can grow up to four inches in length, making them one of the largest species found in North America. They are also one of the longest-living species of spider, with a lifespan of 12 years or more in some cases.

However, it’s this size that is really the only “dangerous” part of tarantulas. While they are venomous, their venom is generally no more potent than a bee sting (and don’t have the same potential for allergic reactions either). Tarantulas are also generally hesitant to use their venom for anything other than hunting, and this makes them remarkably docile. In fact, you might see some crossing a desert road during the evening hours as they go searching for food or a mate during evening hours of late summer and fall.

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