According to the Texas A&M University, there are nearly 1000 different species of spiders located throughout the state of Texas. Texas heat and high humidity create a perfect living condition and environment for many species of spiders to effectively prosper. Fortunately, there are only two species whose venomous bites represent a significant harm to most Texans and that is the Black Widow and Brown Recluse. They are the only two species that experts consider to have “medically significant” bites that require professional attention and proper care. Most other species only offer very minor problems for bite victims or are harmless, although some people are dangerously allergic to bites much like a wasp, bee, ant, etc… so care still needs to be taken. Even though some spiders may be considered dangerous, spiders overall are helpful in keeping insect populations in check and are a positive addition to our surroundings.
Symptoms Of Venomous Spider Bites: The severity depends on many factors that include the amount of venom that was injected, the area the bite took place, the victims current heart conditions and problems, the victims age, the depth of the bite, and many other factors. Regardless, once you have been bitten it is strongly recommend to try and identify the species of spider. If there is any way possible to safely trap the spider in a manner that will allow you to monitor it then it is strongly recommended to do so. Avoid simply squishing the spider as markings, body features, size, colors, etc… will be much harder to identify to those trying to assist you. At that time you can use this guide to help identify the species, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222 which will help identify the species, Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-764-7661, your family physician, or proceed to a Hospital as soon as possible as symptoms and sever illness can develop quickly. Many times, the actual bite of a spider may feel much like a pin prick and go initially undetected but later develop into an aching wound as more symptoms continue to develop.
First Aid: First aid for a spider bite should include washing the bite area with soap and water to help avoid infection. Many spiders eat insects that have been known to carry diseases such as mosquitoes, flies, etc… and just like any open bite wound, it could become infected. Unlike snake bites, an ice pack, ammonia, or alcohol may be applied directly to the bite area to help alleviate pain as well as reduce the chance of swelling. Proceed as soon as possible to a Hospital to receive proper care. If you are far from a source of professional care then it may be helpful to use a snake/insect bite kit such as the Sawyer Extractor to help remove as much venom as possible. The sooner the device is used, the better as the venom will quickly begin to be mixed in and absorbed in your blood stream.
Brown Recluse – The five species of Brown Recluse spiders found in Texas vary in size but are most commonly found with a body between ¼” to ¾”. Their legs are typically twice as long as their body and are very thin and wire like. The spider itself is light golden brown in color however they can be found in several other shades of brown or even a yellowish orange color depending on region and location. Regardless of the shade, they all have the same shape that is located on the head region where their legs connect to their body. The shape to most people resembles a guitar, fiddle, or violin that has its neck pointed towards the rear of the spider and is dark brown to black in color. The brown recluse is also one of the few spiders that have 6 eyes instead of 8. A bite from a brown recluse can cause severe tissue loss and necrosis. Bite victims should seek medical care immediately as their condition will rapidly worsen. Most Victims experienced one or more of the following symptoms after being bitten; nausea, vomiting, overall weakness, restlessness, fever, chills, necrosis at the area of the bite wound, and a variety of lesion colors developing at the bite wound such as white, blue, and red. There is no effective antivenom currently available for a Brown Recluse bite however there are still several methods of treatment available to help victims properly recover. Often cortisone type hormones are administered, pain relievers are prescribed, and muscle relaxants are used to help treat spider bite victims. It is common for a Brown Recluse bite wound to take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks to fully heal and often leaves a noticeable scar. They can be commonly found throughout other states in the U.S. but are predominantly found in the southern regions. They can be found in dozens of different locations among the outdoors including debris piles, high foliage or cover, and other shady or dark areas. They spin light grey colored webs that they often hide beneath during the day and are most active at night. Some species do not spin any type of web at all.
Black Widow – There are several different species of Widows found in Texas including the Southern Black Widow, the Brown Widow, the Northern Black Widow, and the Western Black widow. Black Widows also vary in size but most adult spiders usually have bodies roughly about ½” long that is globular in nature and their two front legs are noticeably longer than the other 6 legs. Females are usually a shiny jet black while males tend to look slightly more flat black or brown in color and are smaller in size. Some males and juveniles even have advanced color markings on their rear section that consists of red, white, and orange on their back and sides. Although most people are familiar with the Red Hourglass shape commonly found on black Widows, they can also be found in different shapes and slightly different colors. Some Black Widows may only have a small circle or what appears to be a small square. The colors can also range from a yellowish orange hue to a brilliant red and is located on the underbelly of the spider. The bite from a Black Widow is extremely serious and can even result in death especially if the victim is an adolescent or elderly. Bite victims should seek medical care immediately as their condition will rapidly worsen but fortunately only about 5% of victims that are bitten by a Black Widow actually die from it. Because it is a neurotoxin, even a very small amount of venom can suddenly cause illness as it begins to attack the nervous system. It has been reported that the venom itself is even 15 times stronger than some species of rattlesnake. Many victims immediately experienced difficulty in breathing and several reported quickly losing consciousness. Most victims experience one or more of the following symptoms after being bitten; convulsions, uncontrollable perspiration, nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal pain and cramping, leg cramps, high blood pressure, abdominal rigidity, tremors, muscle soreness, fatigue, hypertension, lesion at the site of the bite, unconsciousness, and pyrexia. Although most bite victims report excruciating pain around the bite wound within the first 1 to 3 hours, some have been bitten and experienced little to no pain at all or even in some rare cases the bite was unnoticed. It is extremely important to proceed as soon as possible to a hospital for treatment especially if you have an existing heart condition or problems as the venom attacks the nervous system. Anti-venom is available to counter the effects of a Black Widow bite but is rarely used as it has tendencies to insight an anaphylactic reaction however proper care needs to be sought as soon as possible. Black Widows are also found in other states but a large percentage of them reside in Texas. They are commonly found among brush piles, wood piles, rubble piles, under large rocks, in hollow openings, and other areas that are somewhat shaded.
Hobo Spider – Hobo Spiders are brown and a typical adult body will measure between 1/3” to 2/3”. Their legs are typically about twice as long as their body and their body contain several chevron shaped marking. Their legs are all relatively the same length and male spiders tend to have two large palpi which are parts of the mouth that resemble miniature boxing gloves. Female Hobo Spiders typically have more round shaped abdomens rather than the males whose abdomens usually have an oval shape. Most bites that are produced by a Hobo spider are initially painless but will quickly turn the tissue surrounding the bite area red and within about 24 hours the bite will turn into a blister. The blister then shortly after will eventually bust open and create an oozing ulceration which could easily get infected. The most common reported symptom of a Hobo Spider bite is severe headaches. However many bite victims also report nausea, fatigue, overall weakness, vision impairment, and even temporary short term memory loss. They are usually found somewhere at or near ground level or below, they very seldom will scale a vertical surface any higher than a couple of feet from the ground. They are however pretty rare to most areas in Texas but several bites have been documented.
Funnel Web Grass Spider – This is probably one of the most commonly seen spiders and many people often mistake them for a Brown Recluse or Wolf Spider. A typical adult Funnel Web Grass spider body is usually around ½” to ¾” long. Depending on their habitat they are typically brownish or slightly gray in color with light and dark colored stripes that run from their mouth to the back of their head. Their legs are also roughly twice as long as their body and have fairly long spinnerets. Although they are still poisonous, their bite is of little risk to humans however they can still be painful. As the name suggest, they are most commonly found among tall grasses, brush, shrubs, and other forms of heavy ground cover. Much like the Hobo spider, they are rarely seen at height levels above the grounds surface level. They construct a web that resembles a sheet among the grasses and use the web as cover when they are forced to retreat and take shelter.
Tarantulas – Several species of Tarantulas are also found throughout Texas. Tarantulas vary dramatically in size but are significantly larger than almost any other species of spider so they are easy to identify. Females are almost always larger than males in almost every species of Tarantula and a typical female has an abdomen about the size of a quarter or larger. They are also notably hairy and don’t really resemble any other species of spider. Their fangs are also very large much like the Mouse Spider discussed below and their legs are also much thicker than smaller breeds of spiders. Because of their exceptionally long fangs, they can cause a much larger bite wound than other species however victims usually only reported localized pain at the bite wound and no other significant symptoms. Much like a snakebite, they can trigger certain allergic reactions in some victims and their hair alone can also incite skin irritation for some people. They are commonly found under heavily shaded areas during the day and become much more active at night as they are primarily nocturnal. They are one of the few species of spiders that are also deemed edible and actually taste good especially when roasted over a flame.
Mouse Spider – Some adult Mouse Spiders can have bodies as long as a 1 ½” long and their legs are typically about as long as their body. Male and Female Mouse spiders have noticeably elongated fangs and considerably thicker legs than any of the other spiders previously listed. The Females are all a black or very dark brown color. Males are sometimes known to have a reddish colored head region. Mouse Spiders are known for their painful bites due to their hard fangs and deep biting capabilities. Their venom is also very powerful and can be especially dangerous to young children or the elderly. It produces a severe illness to its bite victims and should be taken care of immediately. Females tend to be non-aggressive but Males can turn aggressive easily if provoked. Mouse Spiders are ground dwellers and can burrow up to 3 feet or more below the surface. Males are often seen during the middle of the day wondering in search of females, especially after a heavy rain. Mouse Spiders are rarely found in Texas but they are worth noting as they do have a more dangerous bite than most other species.
Black House Spider – Adults usually grow to have a body of about ½” long with the rear six legs about the same length of their body. However, the first two legs are noticeably longer. They are usually either a very dark brown or black in color and appear to almost have a velvet glossy textured appearance. A Black House Spider bite is very painful but not lethal. Most bite victims report symptoms of nausea, headache, vomiting, heavy perspiration, muscle soreness, fatigue, and severe pain around the bite wound area. They spin a very lacy web and prefer dry locations in secluded areas. They are often found at night near high light areas as their primary food source is moths, mosquitoes, flies, and other insects.
Wolf Spider – Adults can grown to have anywhere from ½” to over 1” body and their legs are slightly longer than their bodies. They are often mistaken for the much more dangerous Brown Recluse but differ in looks and are hairy unlike the Brown Recluse. They have a very unique color scheme that consists of gray, brown, and black all laid out in a design throughout their back. Females are sometimes easy to identify as they often carry their young on their back. A Wolf Spider bite is very painful but not lethal. They are typically not aggressive but will even bite multiple times if provoked hence the name Wolf Spider. Their eyes are also highly reflective and can often be seen with a flashlight, headlight, or even heavy moonlight. Most bite victims only report minor symptoms and the intense pain at the area surrounding the bite wound. Wolf Spiders are also ground dwellers and have areas set up to use as retreats in the event they are provoked. Their burrows are sometimes found with webbed doors covers or leaves used to seal their entrance. They are considerably fast given their size and are mostly nocturnal however they can sometimes still be found during the day. They are one of the most commonly found species of spider found in Texas and it is said that an average backyard can have anywhere from hundreds to even thousands of Wolf Spiders.
There are hundreds of other species of spiders found in Texas however they offer little to no real threat to humans unless you happen to be highly allergic. It is always a good rule of thumb to avoid spiders all together but be sure to familiarize yourself with the different species of Widows and Brown Recluses as they are the only real threats that strongly need to be avoided or in the case of an actual bite, proper professional health care needs to be given immediately.