Black Widow or Brown Recluse? Choose Your Poison.

A factoid that we posted on our Facebook feed yesterday about the Black Widow spider led to an interesting question by one of our followers:

“Which spider, a Brown Recluse or a Black Widow has a worse bite?”

If you do a search for both, you will get lots of incorrect facts and dramatic pictures of necrotic spider bites. The real facts are:

  • ALL spiders are poisonous. All of them. Some spiders, like Granddaddy Long Leg spiders, just have fangs that are so small, they can’t penetrate our skin (which is a good thing since Granddaddy Long Legs are the most poisonous spiders in the U.S.)
  • Spider bites usually heal on their own. The worst bites are those that get infected. Every person’s body reacts differently to the poison in a spider’s bite, just like with a bee sting or ant bite.
  • According to the Clemson Entomology Institute, Brown Recluse spiders are not very common in South Carolina. Black widow spiders, however, are native to the area.
  • Both Brown Recluse and Black Widow bites look like a target or a bull’s eye on the skin, however, a Brown Recluse bite will form a blister in the center.
  • If you’re bit by both spiders, you’ll feel the effects of a Black Widow sooner than the Brown Recluse. Both can be painful, but the only way one can be worse than the other is if the blister caused by a Brown Recluse turns into an ulcer and gets infected.

It May Not Be a Spider Bite…

Ian Stocks, an entomologist from Clemson, says, “It is difficult for a physician to diagnose a Brown Recluse bite based simply on an examination of the wound.” He, Ivar Frithsen (of the Medical University of South Carolina) and Richard Vetter (of the University of California at Riverside) worked together to analyze spider bite diagnosis data from physicians throughout South Carolina. They found that in many cases, if a patient did not remember getting an injury, they simply assumed it was a spider bite. Many times, it wasn’t a spider bite – it was actually an injury caused by bacteria called MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which has become a significant health problem in parts of South Carolina.

So, to conclude, there’s no real difference between these two bites. Both cause similar symptoms (such as nausea, chills, and muscle aches/cramps) but neither is life-threatening.

If you have a spider infestation (of any kind), we suggest investing in our Columbia pest control services. We can eliminate the infestation quickly so you won’t have to worry about them again.

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