Known for its fearsome appearance and death-dealing bite, the brown recluse spider is the most common of the brown spiders. It is found only in the southern and central United States. Brown recluse spiders have been found in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. When comes to this spider, the question has become, are they really that dangerous?
The number of individuals fatally bitten by a brown recluse spider in the United States is an overwhelming one. That doesn’t include the case of Branson Riley Carlisle, a rare incident where an Alabama boy died November 23, 2014. The case has gotten the attention of the scientific community.
The last death in the United States by a brown recluse spider was in 2004, according to records by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. And while it certainly is unlikely that a brown recluse spider will kill a human being, it happens. Jessica Carlisle, of Albertville, watched her son decline after being bitten. Her son died despite rescue efforts at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children about 14 hours after the bite.
“This is a tragic event and a very rare event and people need to think of this as very unlikely happenstance,” said Rick Vetter, a retired entomology research associate at the University of California Riverside. Vetter is one of the nation’s experts on brown recluses.
Brown recluses usually hide in dark and isolated places; under porches or deep in closets. They thrive man-made areas; underneath trash cans, tires, etc. These spiders are primarily nocturnal and lay eggs from May to July.
Brown recluse spiders get around by hitchhiking on furniture boxes and other items from infested structures, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. They live long lives, can survive months without eating, and adapt to hot and dry conditions. A female brown recluse needs to mate only once to produce eggs for a lifetime. In other words, a single female finding her way into a structure or dwelling may constitute an eventual infestation. Therefore, the need to inspect items before moving them in is important. Once established within a structure, brown recluses are not easy to control. Though hundreds of brown recluses may be present in a house, they are not easily observed.
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