The Itsy Bitsy Spider

Can Have Quite A Big Bite!


Walk up to my front door and you will see nature has already decorated my home for Halloween with an abundance of spider webs and beautiful spiders lining my entire walkway and front door in webs often 6-8 feet in span. As the mosquitos swarm, I cannot bear to knock them down. Perhaps those intricate web systems will catch a few thousand?

On the ground and hidden in dark places in our geographical location are spiders that are not so beneficial. Primarily, two types of venomous spiders live and breathe in and around Southport and the surrounding area. They are the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse spider. These spiders make their habitat in warm, undisturbed areas like basements, woodpiles, amongst unused pots, in landscaping rocks/blocks, along fences or where yard debris has accumulated. The brown recluse is particularly known for living in closets and shoes that are outside or back in a dark corner. Both have been known to frequent outdoor toilets as well.

The Black Widow spider is characterized by its shiny black appearance and red hourglass design on its abdomen. The bite of the Black Widow spider is often described like a needle or pinprick leaving a set of fang marks or puncture marks at entry. This spider bite releases a neurotoxin that quickly spreads to the chest, abdomen and body. Symptoms include immediate pain, redness, swelling and burning, nausea and/or vomiting, fever/chills with the onset of severe abdomen cramps with- in 20-30 minutes or other muscle cramps. Symptoms of severe allergy or anaphylaxis include hives, shortness of breath or wheezing and muscle weakness.

The Brown Recluse spider displays a light colored, hairless abdomen with a chest and thorax described as a “violin” pattern on the upper back. Generally, the bite is experienced as a mild sting with redness then severe pain, fever and chills frequently within 8 hours or later. Some people experience a small white blister or a blue/purple discoloration in the area that is then surrounded by a lighter ring and a large outer ring that is often reddened. (Think Target) The fluid filled blister that forms will slough from the area leaving a deep ulcerated hole as the venom destroys the skin layers. This can also turn black or dark in color.

Both types of these bites require immediate medical attention. They can be deadly especially in children. If you did not see the spider bite you, it is often difficult to determine if you indeed received a spider bite. Several types of skin infections such as that caused by Staphylococcus as well as bites from other insects may initially mimic a spider bite. If you are bitten and can safely trap and transport the spider or the remains, the process may be much easier for your health care professional. Immediate first aid should be to wash the area with soap and water. Apply cool water or cold compresses to the area keeping it elevated if possible. Seek immediate attention from your nearest emergency room. Black Widow anti-venom may be a treatment option. In addition, tetanus spores may infect spider bites so frequently patients are given a Tetanus booster. Finally, the tissue death caused by a Brown Recluse spider bite may need surgical treatment.

Prevention is always the key. Check your environment for potential hazards which may be harboring these critters. Southport Magazine owner, Kris Beasley, most recently had a very close encounter with a black widow while working in her back yard landscaping. Luckily, her rapid heart rate was from running to get something to exterminate it and not from a bite! Always wear protective gloves, pants, shirts and boots when working with yard debris or stacked wood, pots and planters etc. Inspect shoes and shake them to remove any hidden spiders. Check equipment before reaching your hand in anywhere. Generally, the spiders are not aggressive but will bite because they are trapped or contacted unintentionally.

May the spiders you encounter this month will be the big black artificial type that are here just for the Halloween season!


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Southport Area's Culture & Events Magazine