Since completing university in England, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian and freelance writer. He currently lives in Florida.
As far as the most dangerous spiders in Texas go, there are essentially two types that people should be aware of. The first is the black widow spider and the second is the brown recluse.
Both of these spiders pack enough strong venom in their bites to seriously injure, or even kill in extreme circumstances, and both can be found living indoors and outdoors all over Texas.
In general terms, you can minimize your chances of being bitten by one of these spiders by:
- Being able to identify each of them
- Being aware of the sorts of places that they like to live
- Wearing gloves when you are reaching into spaces that you cannot see, such as shelving and recesses, especially in places like sheds and outhouses.
- Shake out old clothes, towels, linen, etc. that hasn’t been used for some time, before you wear them.
Below in detail is a full description of each spider, their typical habitats, behaviors, and their poisonous bites.
Black Widow Spiders
The black widow (Latrodectus mactans) has a dangerous reputation, but it is important to remember that the bite is rarely fatal if treated.
The female of the species is the one to look out for, as her venom sacs are much bigger than those of the male. An adult female typically measures around 1.5 inches in length and has a glossy, jet black body with a distinctive marking on the underside of her abdomen which resembles a red hourglass.
The males are much smaller, about a quarter of the size of the female, and usually grey or brown in color. Their bite is not considered dangerous.
Widow spiders are nocturnal and build irregular, three-dimensional, tangled webs where they stay during the daytime.
They will typically hang upside down near the center of the web, until they sense an insect getting caught (usually through vibration, rather than by sight), then they run over and bite the insect, before covering it in silk.
Widow spiders are generally timid and will attempt to escape from people if they feel threatened. They usually only bite defensively, sometimes when a female is guarding her eggs, but more often when they are accidentally pinched or pressed against. This can happen if, for example, someone puts on an article of clothing such as a glove or shoe and there is a widow spider inside it, or if feels around in an area where a widow is hiding, for example on a high or dark shelf.
Effects of a Widow Bite
Be aware that the bite itself may feel like a tiny pin prick, or may not even noticed at the time. Symptoms don’t generally begin until 1 to 3 hours after the bite and can include:
- Intense pain
- Muscle and abdominal cramps
- Convulsions and tremors
- Profuse sweating
- Lesions at the site of the bite
Initially the venom just affects the area of the bite, but is gradually spread around the body by the lymphatic system, followed by the bloodstream. Symptoms normally last around 3 – 5 days at the most. If you receive medical treatment, you are very unlikely to die from a black widow bite.
Did You Know?
- On average, 4 people die each year from venomous spider bites in the USA.
- Aside from widows and recluses, the most dangerous spiders in North America are the Hobo Spider and the Yellow Sac Spider.
Brown Recluse Spiders
Also known as brown spiders , reapers, violin spiders and fiddle-back spiders, brown recluse spiders are to be found in many parts of the southern USA, including Texas.
These spiders are fairly small, they typically measure 6–20 mm (1⁄4 in and 3⁄4in) in size.
Their coloring is light to medium brown and they have a distinctive violin-shaped marking on their back (hence their “fiddle-back” and “violin” monikers).
There are other spiders which have a similar violin pattern on their back, so a more accurate way of identifying a brown recluse is by its eyes.
Most spiders have eight eyes arranged in two rows but the recluse has six eyes arranged in pairs.
Where do Recluses Live?
Humans are most likely to encounter brown recluses in garages or the basements of houses.
The spiders like hiding between boards, boxes, and amongst old clothing in dark, undisturbed areas.
As with widows, brown recluses are not naturally aggressive, but will bite if they feel threatened or trapped.
Effects of a Recluse Bite
The effects of a brown recluse bite can vary greatly in intensity, from virtually no effect, all the way up to death (in extreme circumstances).
Symptoms of a brown recluse bite usually begin between 2 and 6 hours after the bite and may include:
- Intense pain
- Necrosis at the bite site
- Lesion at the bite site
There is no effective antivenom available for victims of a brown recluse bite, but medical help should still be sought as quickly as possible.
© 2013 Paul Goodman