I am not a big fan of spiders. I wouldn’t say that I am jump-on-a-chair scared of them, but I think they’re pretty creepy. If I see one in my living room, and I can’t catch it, I will spend the rest of the evening thinking that it’s crawling on my shoulder.It’s only when I start wondering if that spider on the ceiling is poisonous* that my creepy-crawlies turn into actual fear.
I live in the southeastern U.S., and people seem to love to tell me about the venomous spiders that live here. The two big offenders are the black widow and the brown recluse. Both are fairly common around here. One of my sons in particular is always telling me that he saw another black widow in the garage. I have never seen a black widow in our garage, but apparently every time he goes down there he sees some. This got me to thinking. I don’t actually know what either a black widow or a brown recluse really looks like, but Google does. Google knows what all kinds of venomous spiders look like, and it will tell me if only I ask. Here’s what I found:
Black widows are shiny and black, about half an inch long, have bulbous butts, and a distinctive red hourglass marking. Unfortunately, not all of them have the “distinctive red hourglass.” Their back could be blank, or it could have a yellow or orange hourglass, or it could just be a colored dot, so don’t judge a spider safe just because it doesn’t have a distinctive red hourglass. Its bite could kill you if left untreated, but if you get to the hospital, they should have the anti-venom you need to get better. I still don’t think I’ve seen one in my garage.
These motherfuckers are scary. The handy-dandy spider identification chart I found labels them as “deadly and aggressive.” Their bites can cause large necrotic areas, and they can, in fact, kill you. And they’re everywhere in the U.S. The fact that I have made it 37 years without being bitten by one is the only thing keeping me from building a spider-proof bunker to live in from now on.
For those of you in the Pacific Northwest, you can also be on the lookout for hobo spiders and grass spiders. Their bites aren’t deadly, but they can make you feel like ass.
Now, here are the reassuring facts and figures I found on my Google adventure:
- There are only about 6 spider-related deaths in the U.S. each year
- Only 2% of all the spiders in the whole wide world are dangerous to humans
- Spiders are fairly content to leave you alone if you leave them alone.
I know this last part to be true because every other year we have a writing spider take up residence on our porch. They look scary as crap, and walking into one of their webs is like walking into a sticky steel mesh, but they have never made an aggressive move toward me, even when I accidentally walked into a web. They’ll hang out for a few months, and they almost get to feel like weird pets that you don’t want to feed or touch.
As you can see, I only really looked into the spiders on North America. The world is a pretty big place, and I don’t have it in me to research the venomous spiders for the whole thing. I’ve been sitting cross-legged in my chair for the last half-hour so that imaginary spiders won’t crawl over my toes while I’m typing. If you are curious about the venomous spiders in your area, you can go on your own Google adventure. Wear thick socks and sturdy boots.
*This site helpfully informed me that a spider is only poisonous if you get sick after eating it. The proper nomenclature is “venomous,” as it is the poison in their bites that we are concerned with.