Closer To Home: Black Widow and Brown Recluse

In this week’s rendition of Cool Stuff I’ve Caught, we have things that are venomous. Well, one thing at least, because I haven’t found any good recluse pictures.

Like most people in our area, we were having issues with spiders this summer. The drought was decreasing the number of insects in our area, which lead to bugs coming closer to people to find respite from the heat. What does this mean? Where the prey goes, so the predator follows.

Mind you, I have absolutely nothing against any animal as long as I am not going to stumble on it in the middle of the night and need a subsequent trip to the hospital. Cellar spiders? Okay, they get moved outside. Recluses? Eh, okay if they’re outside, but if I see one in the house, chances are it’s a male and there’s some population nearby that I need to find.

By now you should know that I like spiders. Like with most other things, I catch them, I take pictures of them, and then I put them outside. Unfortunately, this poor girl was used as an example to our pest control company, so she didn’t get released.

What does this look like to you? Other than probably the second prettiest black widow I’ve ever seen (she was steel blue in the sunlight), she’s also definitely a black widow, right? Perhaps another view would help?

This one may be harder:

This one’s been gone for a while, but I couldn’t get him to hold still so I could get him in a jar. And angry dangerous spiders are not a good thing; I’m much more comfortable with non-angry spiders in general. Anyway, this one is a recluse that ran over my foot while I was putting laundry away. I did finally get him into a jar; he was just squished before he got there…

What did we do at that point? We called the pest people. However, our pest control company saw me, a female, explaining that we had brown recluses coming from the vent in the bathroom. Most of what we were seeing were male, so there was probably an infestation in the attic and they were wandering around looking for food.

The guy actually looked me in the eye and told me I was probably overreacting and couldn’t tell the difference between a recluse and a nonvenomous spider. Excuse me? I got a bit righteously offended and explained the differences between recluses and other spiders. Because I’m on a soapbox, here’s the lowdown:

Recluses have a fiddle or pitchfork shape on their back; however, so do other spiders. So nerds like me who have a pocket magnifying glass have to look a bit closer to differentiate them. Other spiders have 8 eyes; recluses only have 6 that are separated into 3 pairs. They also have medium-length legs with fine hairs, not spines, and their body length doesn’t often get too large, say 1/4 to 3/8th of an inch long.

Fun fact: If you look closely enough, you can find castings from where the spiders have moulted. Castings are the exoskeleton of the spider, and usually have some webbing attaching them to something so the spider can leverage itself out of the casting.

The pesticide guy looked disinterested and ignored my request to check the attic for further infestation. So what did I do? I grabbed a jar and started collecting the recluses when I saw them. Yeah, I know, not nice, right? Hey, they were in our master bathroom and bedroom, we were seeing them every other day at least, and it got our building manager to drag the company back out.

Did the pesticide guys learn their lesson? No. So when I told them we had black widows living in our doors (the outside doors have metal fittings which wasps and spiders can crawl into), they said they’d be back in 3 months and that they were sure we didn’t have black widows anyway. At which point we caught our little girl and gave her to the building manager. The pest control guys were there the next day.

While in general, spiders are great things to have because they keep insect populations down, it’s just not a good idea to have hidden populations of venomous ones where you sleep and stumble around in the middle of the night. It’s also probably not a good idea to have an insensitive pesticide company spraying your house for you, but we’re working on it.

In other venom news, if you want a fun night activity in the midwest, go black-lighting for scorpions. I’ll bet you didn’t know they glow in the dark!

And, off the soapbox. I’m sure you’re relieved. Also, I promise I see other things besides bugs, so for the next few weeks you get a break!


2 responses to “Closer To Home: Black Widow and Brown Recluse

  1. You should really leave the cellar spiders inside. They die outside. PLUS, they EAT brown recluse! They are also wonderful parents, they carry the egg sac in their mouth until the babies hatch (no eating), wait about 2 weeks for the babies to get bigger, then move away (finally, food!) I can’t watch them kill anything, it is horrible… but they don’t hurt us and are really cool. I have been severely arachnaphobic my whole life but Cellar Spiders are helping me overcome my fears.

    • Hehe, not sure where you live. We have a thriving population of just about any arachnid you could possibly think of around us, and the cellar spiders do fine because they hide in the dead trees and brush. Also, since you mention it, there was a guy that did a PhD project on what species of spiders eat recluses; he found that the little tiny jumping spiders will also control recluse populations. I can find the study if you’re interested. :). I’m glad you’ve overcome that fear! It’s good to know that other people don’t think they’re as bad as their reputation.

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