Along Came a Spider



Somehow the subject of spider bites came up at a dinner party recently. My physician friend who works mostly Emergency Rooms these days dismissed someone’s conclusion that a mark on their arm had come from a spider bite–possibly a brown recluse.

“They don’t live around here” he said with some confidence, and I raised an eyebrow.

“You think different? You’re the biologist” and I told him I check it out. To my thinking, the brown recluse was endemic. But that impression had come when I lived in Alabama, and I was wrong.

You can see from the range map that Virginia is out of the usual range (but in SWVa we’re near enough to qualify for “in the margins” of the usual range. So I still might be right.) There’s always the remote possibility of a recluse bite anywhere, as they do travel in furniture, groceries, and other stuff being moved great distances in trucks.

And if you find a suspicious-looking arachnid near your tuffet, check closely for the violin on the top of the cephalothorax. (Black widows have the red hour glass on the underside of the abdomen.) Read more about Brown Recluse and Kin so you will be properly informed at your next dinner party when the topic of spiders and snakes inevitably come up.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I was bitten by a Black Widow spider when I was in college and I still remember how bad it hurt. As you know, Fred, that was many moons ago. I have a very healthy respect for our arachnid friends and always check my shoes before I put them on. Imagine my surprise when a giant black spider came out of my tennis shoe on one of our stays in Floyd recently.

  2. I am surprised to see that the range doesn’t include North Carolina. I was diagnosed with a brown recluse spider bite when I lived near Raleigh. The physician based his diagnosis on the severe necrosis on my leg. He surmised that the spider had been hiding in my jeans when I put them on. For years afterward, I couldn’t bring myself to put on pants until I’d turned them inside out and inspected every inch!

  3. Hmmm…my mother, who lives in Raleigh, NC., was bit by a brown recluse a couple of years go and because she was already on meds at the time, only suffered severe necrosis on the toe where she was bitten. Fortunately, my mother saw the spider and had the presence of mind not to squash, but captured it instead and took it to the doctor with her for positive identification.

  4. Charleston, IL, late 1960’s: an apartment my wife (who passed in 2002) and I were living in was suddenly invaded by brown recluse spiders.
    I took one over to the university for positive identification. We told the manager, and then bought a mobile home. Blessedly, none ever bit
    either of us. A few miles to the west, Mattoon’s
    high school was infested with them.
    Gainesville, FL, around 2005: outside my mobile there I twice saw a black widow.
    Springfield, MO: Have been living in an apart-
    ment here since 01-10-07. Have seen different spiders. One kind may have been young hobo spiders, which is another venomous spider. It has been drifting eastward from states such as Idaho. I’ve been killing most spiders I see. The
    brown recluse definitely lives in MO, but I have
    not yet seen one.