A Spider That Lurks with Venom That Stings

By Jolyn Johnston-Myers
April 07, 2016

As spring marches toward summer, spiders also start coming out again, which isn't necessarily a cause for concern unless you're talking about the brown recluse spider. It certainly lives up to its name, preferring to remain out of sight in darker and more undisturbed areas of the home. Still, Holly Schwarting with the Kansas State University Department of Entomology, says that when cornered or surprised – and near exposed skin – this spider will bite.

“The brown recluse spider’s bite can be kind of a nasty one,” said Schwarting. “Their venom contains a material that causes our tissue to break down, so it can create a lesion and a slow healing wound. The degree, or how severe the bite can be, depends on the person, the location of the bite, the health and age of the individual.”

Nocturnal by nature and an active hunter, the spider may be seen at night searching for its prey. When fully grown, brown recluse spiders can reach the size of a quarter or half-dollar. Schwarting says the spider can be found in shoes, toys or piles of clothes left on the floor, as well as in more remote places.

“Boxes, building equipment, those cabinets that you may store nails and other out of the way items in–those are great places for spiders to be,” explained Schwarting. “So be careful when you are digging around in those locations. Be aware of where you are reaching. It’s always a great idea to wear leather gloves or something to protect your hands. The spiders can’t bite through those, so they will provide you with great protection.”

Schwarting also recommends shaking out shoes, coats and coveralls before putting them on. Controlling brown recluse can be difficult, but glue traps can be used to gauge the level of infestation inside the home.