More than 30,000 spider species have been documented worldwide, and luckily, most species are unable to inflict penetrative bites to human skin due to their small and delicate mouthparts. Some spider bites produce few or no symptoms at all despite venom being injected beneath the skin’s surface. This is due to the production of species-specific types of venom, as spiders did not evolve to envenomate humans. This is why some spider venoms are entirely impotent to humans. However, a great number of spiders in the US inflict painful bites, and some spiders are considered medically significant due to the toxic effects that their venom has on the human nervous system. Some spiders, like the brown recluse, can inflict bites that cause necrotic lesions, other species, like all three black widows in the US, inflict bites that may produce systemic symptoms, like headache, nausea, chills, fever and even seizures. Of course, neither the brown recluse nor its 12 relatives in the US can be found in the northeastern states, and the black widow is only rarely found in certain northeastern states. However, there is certainly no shortage of spider species in the northeast that are known for inflicting painful bites to humans, and most of these species are often found indoors, as most reported spider bites in the US occur within homes.
Arthropod bites and stings are very common in the United States, as more than 50,000 bites and stings are reported in the country each year, and of these reports, almost half involve spiders. Most reported spider bites were inflicted by species of minor medical importance indoors during the spring, summer and fall seasons when indoor spiders are spotted most frequently. Most outdoor spider bites occurred while gardening, landscaping, and gathering firewood. In order to avoid spider bites during these outdoor activities it is recommended that people wear gloves and long sleeves. Applying DEET-based repellents can also provide protection from spider bites. Spiders can be prevented from entering indoor areas by sealing foundation cracks and removing spider webs. The spiders that inflict the greatest number of bites each year in the US include: orb-weavers, garden spiders, parson spiders, huntsman spiders, running spiders, wolf spiders, crab spiders, jumping spiders, barn spiders and jumping spiders. Species from all of these spider groups are often found within homes in the northeast.
Have you ever sustained a spider bite within your home?