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Beware of brown recluse spider bites

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Brown Recluse spider. Photo by CoServ
Brown Recluse spider. Photo by CoServ

Nick McBride was working on his car recently in Bartonville when he felt a sting. Days later, that sting was identified as the bite of a brown recluse spider.

The reclusive spider is known to hang out in little-used spaces such as closets, sheds, garages or – in Nick’s case – a car lift that hadn’t been used in a while. It’s typically non-aggressive unless it has been disturbed.

More bites are reported this time of year as people get out and about on sunny days to clear out sheds, work on automobiles and other similar activities. It is also the time when the spider is most active, according to entomologists with the Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center.  The Brown Recluse spider lays eggs from April to October – a period when most bites are reported.

Chris Schraeder, county extension agent for AgriLife in Collin County, says a recent spate of spider encounters could well be due to the record rainfall in May. Instead of the typical spring cleaning many do during those early spring months, much of the clearing out of closets or working in garages is just now beginning this past week.

“Typically, we come into contact with them when we’re woodworking or cleaning out a garage or storage,” Schraeder said.

“In my garage, I run into them once or twice a month,” he said, adding it is usually the brown recluse spider he sees more than the black widow spider – another venomous variety found in North Texas.

The brown recluse spider’s venom often causes necrosis which means it destroys body tissue unless properly treated.

McBride, once he noticed the bite growing larger to the size of a quarter, headed to a physician where the bite was treated and he was immediately put on antibiotics.

An estimated 195 brown recluse spider bites were reported in Texas from January 2014 through April 2015, according to a report from KENS5 in San Antonio.

The spiders – described as light brown with slender legs extending over an area about the size of a quarter to a half dollar – also are distinguished by a dark violin-shaped marking on the back of the front portion of the body and a semicircular, paired arrangement of six eyes.

The best solution to a household and storage area infestation is to hire a professional pest control company, officials say.

Even for professionals, it can be difficult to control.

To help prevent an infestation, AgriLife officials suggest eliminating unnecessary clutter with a thorough vacuuming around, under and behind furniture or storage boxes. Liquid insecticide should be applied to exterior foundations, eaves and any storage areas.

When a brown recluse spider bites you, you might feel a sharp sting or nothing at all. However, pain usually begins to develop several hours afterward and could become severe, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Children may have a more severe reaction to the brown recluse spider bites.

And though wet weather returns next week to North Texas for a little while, the brown recluse has already become active and could well be hiding away in an unlikely place.

Schraeder recommends not trying to catch them alive. “They are fairly quick,” he said.

For more specific information about brown recluse spider bites and what to look for, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine website here.

Dawn Cobb is Public Relations Communications Specialist at CoServ.

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