PPL Motorhomes: Recognizing Venomous Spiders in Texas

PPL Motorhomes and many of our consignment RVs are ready to hit the road and head into the full rush of the RVing season. Of course, that means more opportunities to engage with nature are headed our way. I’ve recently written a post about knowing your venomous snakes, so I figured one about spiders would be just as appropriate. I’ll be honest here, I’m not a big fan of spiders. However, spiders play a major role in our ecosystem and are under appreciated. Either in our homes, or our RVs, most of our widespread fear of spiders is unjustified, as Texas is home to just two that are venomous, the Brown Recluse and the Black Widow.

Of course just hearing their names sends shivers down our spines.

The Brown Recluse Spider:

Bites and Medical Significance

Like other spiders, the brown recluse is not aggressive. It is quite common, in fact, to live in a building that is heavily infested and never be bitten. Most bites occur in response to body pressure, when a spider is inadvertently trapped against bare skin. Some people are bitten when they roll over one in bed. Other bites occur while moving stored items or putting on a piece of clothing that a spider has chosen for its daytime retreat. Brown recluse spiders have remarkably small fangs and cannot bite through clothing.

The initial bite is usually painless. Oftentimes the victim is unaware until 3 to 8 hours later when the bite site may become red, swollen, and tender. The majority of brown recluse spider bites remain localized, healing within 3 weeks without serious complication or medical intervention. In other cases, the victim may develop a necrotic lesion, appearing as a dry, sinking bluish patch with irregular edges, a pale center and peripheral redness. Often there is a central blister. As the venom continues to destroy tissue, the wound may expand up to several inches over a period of days or weeks. The necrotic ulcer can persist for several months, leaving a deep scar. Infrequently, bites in the early stages produce systemic reactions accompanied by fever, chills, dizziness, rash or vomiting. Severe reactions to the venom are more common in children, the elderly, and patients in poor health. Persons bitten by a brown recluse spider should apply ice, elevate the affected area, and seek medical attention immediately.

Source: www.ca.uky.edu/University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

The Black Widow:

Of the spiders capable of inflicting a poisonous bite, black widows are the most notorious. The female is about 1/2-inch long, shiny black and usually has a red hourglass mark on the underside of the abdomen. In some varieties the hourglass mark may be reduced to two separate spots. Spiderlings and male spiders are smaller than the females and have several red dots on the abdomen’s upper side.

Widow spiders belong to the cobweb spider family and spin loosely organized trap webs. The webs are usually found under objects such as rocks and ground trash or under an overhanging embankment. Black widow spiders are not as common in homes as the brown recluse. When found in homes, they are usually under appliances or heavy furniture and not out in the open like other cobweb spiders. Black widow spiders are timid, however, and will only bite in response to being injured. People are usually bitten when they reach under furniture or lift objects under which a spider is hiding.

Black widow venom is a nerve toxin and its effects are rapid. The victim suffers painful rigidity of the abdomen and usually a tightness of the chest. Blood pressure and body temperature may rise, and sweating, localized swelling, and nausea may occur. In about 5% of the bite cases, the victim may go into convulsions in 14 to 32 hours and die if not given medical attention. First aid for black widow spider bites involves cleaning the wound and applying ice packs to slow absorption of venom. Victims should seek medical attention promptly. Most black widow spider envenomizations respond to intravenous administrations of calcium gluconate or calcium salts. An antivenin is also available for severe cases.

Source: www.ca.uky.edu/University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

As you probably already know, we live side by side with these two spiders in our homes as well as in the outdoors. You can just as easily encounter either of these spider species in your closest as you would under a rock, or fallen tree. When out in the wild, or even your own home, remember that we share space with a lot of other living creatures. When left alone, the Brown Recluse and Black Widow pose no threat, but when disturbed, they can be dangerous. Remember, to “look before lift” and “shake it before you put it on”. Follow this link for ways to avoid potential spider bites.

Have and creepy crawly stories of your own? Share them here, or give RV Nana a call at PPL Motorhomes…maybe your story will make my blog!