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Widow spiders are rare in New England

By Chris Williams on January 16, 2012.

 

Widow spiders are rare, and brown recluse spiders are not native to New England, but I’ve heard that the very common Yellow sac spider may be dangerous.  Is that true?

 

I am an entomologist by training, but I’ve been fascinated by spiders all my life. (Perhaps I missed my calling and should have become an arachnologist?) Anyway, I first remember noticing this species (yellow sac spider) nesting on the chain link fence in the schoolyard of my elementary school over 45 years ago. It makes perfect sense right? The other kids are running around playing, and I’m looking at these small greenish/yellow spiders.  What I recall most about them from so long ago was their odd coloration but today, since I’m in the pest control industry, I like to inform, educate, and a number of sources out there do consider these spiders to be potentially medically important. The following two links give a good description of Yellow Sac spider (Cheiracanthium sp.) http://pestid.msu.edu/InsectsArthropods/YellowsacspidersCheiracanthiuminclusumandC/tabid/264/Default.aspx and describe some cases of “necrotic arachnidism”. (http://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/prevguid/m0042059/m0042059.asp)  To be accurate, most of the cases described occurred in the Northwest and involved the hobo spider which is not native to New England, but yellow sac spider is mentioned.  Fortunately, none of the accounts I’ve read about yellow sac spider bites have featured any of the gruesome tissue destruction that is pretty universal as a result of brown recluse spider bite.  I’ve seen, and probably been bitten before in my home by a sac spider, but I can’t prove it.  I once had a blister-like sore on the ring finger of my left hand that seemed to take forever to heal, and I’ve had clients tell me they’ve had bad reactions to sac spider bites.

 

This summer I’m going to take a ‘field trip’ to my old Catholic elementary school in Dover where I grew up to look for Yellow Sac spiders on the chain link fence.  I bet they’re still there!!

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