The number of reported brown recluse spider bites has increase dramatically over the past few years. The brown recluse spider, Loxosceles recluse, has gained a reputation over the years as one of North America’s “medically important” spiders. Although the brown recluse’s natural territory range in the United States is in the southern states, primarily from western Georgia through Texas, it has been known to range as far north as parts of Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, and Nebraska. However bites have been reported in Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and numerous other locales.
The brown recluse naturally occurs in outdoor situations, living in piles of debris, in closets, behind paneling, utility boxes, rodent bait stations, attics, wood piles, crawl spaces, basements, under bark, logs, and stones. It has adapted quite well to indoor habitats.
Recently the author was in a hotel in central Kentucky and a brown recluse was found on the bed linen in the hotel room.
The brown recluse can be detected by the skins that they shed when they molt. Learning to identify these shed skins will warn you of the presence of this venomous spider.
The brown recluse spider is a nocturnal spider. It searches for food such as firebrats, cockroaches, crickets, or other softbodied species. Lights left on in a building will attract food from outdoors and increase the populations of spiders indoors. Males wander further than females and are the sex most commonly crawling into shoes, trousers, or other
clothing. Bites occur when a spider hiding in clothing or bedding is accidentally trapped against the skin.
Also known as the fiddleback or violin spider, the brown recluse can inflict a bite that may not even be felt yet may result in severe skin and tissue damage. The bite may be painless, or it may be of the same degree as the sting of an ant. Usually a localized burning sensation develops and lasts about 30-60 minutes. Over the next eight hours the reddened area enlarges and a pus-filled blister forms in its center. Within 12-24 hours after the bite, systemic reaction may occur, characterized by fever, malaise, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Removal of the dead tissue may be necessary followed by skin grafting. Normally the site heals in six to eight weeks.
When someone suspects a spider bite, they should seek medical attention. The area should be cleansed immediately and attempts to locate the spider for proper identification should be made.
General treatment of spider bites or open sores includes cleaning the wound area with iodine or hydrogen peroxide and then topical application of corticosteroids.