Question: What is the prevalence of brown recluse spiders in western Pennsylvania? I am a nurse practitioner and just saw a man who was bitten by one and is now losing his finger.
ANSWER: I don’t think they are considered ”common” in that part of the country. These spiders tend to be more prevalent in the Midwest and southern states. This, however, does not mean that they could not be found outside of the normal areas where they live.
They are called “recluse” spiders because they hide during the day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this spider is not aggressive and will bite when there is some sort of counter pressure which traps the spider against the skin. This spider’s venom can cause necrotic tissue damage and, when there is a suspicion of a spider bite, the individual needs to seek medical attention.
The question is, was this really a spider bite? Studies have shown that close to 80 percent of the reported brown recluse spider bites have been misdiagnosed. In an article by the University of California relating to the brown recluse a medical condition often misdiagnosed as a spider bite is methicillin-resistant Staphyloccocus aureus (MRSA) infection. There have been other medical conditions such as Streptoccocus infections, herpes, fungal infections, etc. that have been misdiagnosed as spider bites. The bottom line is that a correct diagnosis can only be achieved by a physician. If someone has, in fact, been bitten by a spider, they should seek medical attention immediately and, if possible, take the spider along for identification.
These spiders are found in many states, but seem to be more common in the southern and southeastern U.S. They can be confused with some other common (but relatively harmless) spiders. It is important to be certain that it really is the brown recluse that you have in the house. The light brown color and the violin-shaped mark on the head-thorax region, hence the name fiddleback spider, are the best means of identification. There may be other spiders that have similar marks. The brown recluse spider is nearly uniformly colored brown.
Keep in mind that these spiders will be feeding on other insects. It is key to eliminate their food source. Most often a set of sticky traps will need to be used to trap the spiders that come out foraging at night. They are not usually found out in the open during daytime hours.
If you suspect you may be having issues with these spiders, call your local Orkin branch to set up an inspection with a trained Orkin Pest Specialist. Your Orkin Pest Specialist will recommend a treatment strategy to control the problems with spiders or any other pests.