As the temperature rises and summer approaches, more bugs are coming out – and with more bugs comes more spiders. There are over 34,000 species of spiders that have been identified worldwide, but only a few are actually harmful to humans.
Out of 900 spider species found in Alabama, there are a few main types of dangerous spiders that are found in North Alabama. By learning more about these spiders, how to identify them, and how to prevent them from living near your home, you can further protect you and your family by avoiding their bites.
Although female and male black widows have slightly different characteristics, male black widows are much less venomous than females and are much less aggressive. They are smaller so even though they do have venom, it’s harder for them to inject it and the quantity they inject is much smaller. Black widow bites are medically significant. They have a neurotoxic venom which can cause fevers, shakes, and even death in the elderly or young. That is a rare occurrence but has happened when people wander into a nest containing many spiders and sustain numerous bites.
Black widows can be quite aggrieved when you get into their nest. Outside of their nests, they are awkward and it’s hard for them to move around. They have large abdomens compared to the size of their legs and they live much better on vertical surfaces or hanging upside down rather than walking on flat ground. Black widows are often found in deep holes around the base of homes, under items stored around buildings, wood piles, garages, cellars, basements, sheds, water meters, rock or brick retaining walls or even landscaping. You can identify their webs because they are disorganized, three dimensional, and the webbing is so strong that when you break it you can hear it crackle.
Northern Black Widow
Similar in appearance to the black widow, the northern black widow has a row of red spots down the center of the back. Diagonal white bands on each side are seen in younger northern black widows and males of the species.
Northern black widows prefer to build their habitat in undisturbed woods, in stumps, and in stone walls. The female northern black widow injects a small dose of venom compared to the male; however, it is still crucial that you seek medical attention immediately if bitten by a northern black widow.
These types of spiders are light tan to medium brown with the backs of their abdomen and thorax being different shades of brown. They have long and spindly legs, which often appear translucent. Typically ranging in size between a nickel and a quarter, brown recluses are identifiable by the violin shape on their backs.
The brown recluse is a medically significant spider. It frequently causes problems at the bite site causing necrosis, and also can cause problems with blood clotting through the venom having a hemotoxic quality, as well as the cytotoxic part of the venom. A common difference between severe reactions and mild reactions has to do with how clean the bite is kept. Spiders have bacteria growing on their bodies and that often contributes to the lesion that forms after a bite.
Northern Alabama and southern Tennessee have the highest natural concentrations of brown recluse spiders in the world. While they are medically significant, even in cases where people are bitten by multiple spiders, it isn’t likely to cause death. While they have a very serious bite, they are not very aggressive and prefer to hide and run away than to attack. They are not aggressive within their own species either, meaning one brown recluse won’t eat another brown recluse. Because of this, they can be found in very high numbers in homes and areas they infest. They are so good at hiding that they often aren’t noticed until an infestation has reached a very high level. They love to nest in attics, wall voids, under baseboards, around furniture, wood piles, and stored items. Generally, they like to be in areas that aren’t disturbed often, and will usually hang out and wait for an insect to pass by offering them a meal.
Brown recluses can hang out without eating for six months or more, which can add to the difficulty to control them. Their favorite meals are roaches and silverfish, but they will eat most arthropods (insects and arachnids). Bites often happen when we come in contact with them and they don’t have an escape option, like in bed sheets, in gloves or shoes, etc. You should always check shoes or gloves that are left in a garage or haven’t been worn in a while. Homes with brown recluse problems should not have bed skirts and should have beds pulled a few inches away from walls to avoid having spiders invade your bedding. When picking something up, be cautious in checking to see if there may be a spider on, under or around it.
A newer member of the widow family that is starting to make a more frequent appearance is the brown widow spider. Although they are less aggressive than black widows, this widow is more toxic. You can identify these spiders by their brown and tan coloring and black markings. The brown widow does have an hourglass marking, similar to black widows, but it is generally an orange-brown color.
These spiders produce many egg sacs in a lifetime, making them prolific breeders. Each egg sac can contain anywhere from 120-150 eggs per sac and have been known to lay 20 sacs in their lifetime. An infestation can occur quickly with this species.
Looking to protect your home from dangerous spiders that reside in North Alabama? Give Scout Pest Control a call at (256) 216-1088 or fill out our contact form. We are proud to service the Huntsville area including Madison and Limestone counties.