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Brown Recluse Spiders Do Not Occur in the Northeast: Q & A

By Chris Williams on January 4, 2011.
Q. I never have spiders in my house but I just found a couple of small spiders in my family room near the fireplace.  My friend said she was bitten by a brown recluse spider and had to see a doctor.  Could these be brown recluse spiders?
A.  It is highly unlikely that you have brown recluse spiders in your home. Brown recluse spiders occur naturally only in a limited part of the U.S. – the central mid-west and southern states. Rest easy, they do not occur where you live in the northeast….except when they are transported into the area accidentally. This is a very rare occurrence, but it is possible for a brown recluse spider to be introduced by travelers or to be shipped in boxes or other items from areas where they do occur. In your case though, it’s much more likely that these are nonpoisonous spiders that came indoors on a load of firewood.
brown-recluse-spiderBrown recluse spiders have received a lot of negative hype from the media, causing people to believe that they occur throughout the U.S. and to fear them more than is justified.  It’s true that in some cases the bite of a brown recluse spider can cause serious medical conditions. The spider’s venom can destroy the surrounding skin, resulting in an ulcerated wound that can take weeks to heal and may require skin grafts.
Even in their native range, brown recluse spiders are rarely a serious concern and here’s why:
  • their normal habitat is not inside homes, but outside under logs or stones, in woodpiles,  under bark, or similar sites
  • in homes, brown recluse spiders live up to their name, they are shy and “reclusive,” hiding in little-used areas such as cluttered closets,  in attics, and storage rooms
  • brown recluse spiders bite only when trapped, rolled on, or sat on.
  • most brown recluse bites cause symptoms less severe than what most people expect (90% heal without treatment)
  • many other skin conditions are misdiagnosed by physicians as a brown recluse spider bite based on the skin wound alone, not on the identification of a spider
  • there are spiders, other than the brown recluse, that can also cause a similar bite reaction in sensitive individuals

 

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