Fear over brown recluse spiders is overblown and unnecessary. Here’s why
As the seasons change and temperatures plunge, insects make their way to more comfortable climates, either by hibernating under things like leaf litter or mulch — or by seeking refuge indoors. One indoor bug has gained a particular infamy: the brown recluse spider, which is found in homes across Missouri and southern Illinois.
“I tell people, ‘You give me five minutes in your house, and I can almost always find a brown recluse spider,” said Tad Yankoski, senior entomologist at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Butterfly House. “Sometimes we're talking seconds instead of minutes for how long it'll take.”
The spiders are feared for their necrotic venom, though Yankoski told St. Louis on the Air that those fears are overblown.
“It is true that … their bites and their venom do have the potential to cause wounds that can kill tissue or flesh,” he said, while noting that brown recluse bites are actually more rare than the medical diagnoses of such bites. “Dozens of other ailments ... are often confused for their bites.”
Another reason to be less afraid of brown recluse spiders is that they are, indeed, reclusive.
“They like human dwellings because we have shelter and heat and food for them, but the reality is, they don't want to interact with us. They're going to be hiding behind bookshelves or under appliances or in your basement,” he said. “I don't recommend handling them, but you could probably handle most brown recluse spiders safely. It's generally considered that their fangs are not strong enough to penetrate human skin without assistance.
“When bites do happen,” Yankoski added, “they're usually when people are aggressively handling them or they get stuck in their gloves or clothing.”
To learn more about brown recluse spiders — and the other insects that winter in our homes — listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or click the play button below.
What: Winter Jewels: An Enchanted Celebration
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 24-Dec. 31
Where: Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House (15050 Faust Park Drive, Chesterfield, MO 63017)
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production intern. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.