Can Spiders Bite Humans?
Does your skin crawl every time you think of spiders? Well, it might be time to ditch your worries because the chances of getting bitten by these creepy crawlies are much smaller than what you imagine, according to recent research.
Many of the assumed spider bites are not really spider bites per se, as what researchers have found out. Instead, these spider bites are probably stings or bites from other types of arthropods like fleas, infections, or skin reactions to certain chemicals.
Discover More about Spider Bites
Spiders are probably one of the most dreaded arthropods. Their eight legs and eight eyes are responsible for their creepy appearance. However, the majority of spiders are totally harmless. It seems that it is common for spiders to take the blame for minor skin irritations even if many other insects can cause more than half of all the alleged spider bites.
In spite of their harmlessness in general, most are still distressed by the possibility of spotting dangerous spiders such as black widow and brown recluses crawling around their homes. Black widow spider bites and brown recluse spider bites can be cause for serious alarm although it is very rare to encounter them.
It is a must that you learn more about spiders in general as well as proper spider identification for you to determine the ones that you can ignore, the ones that need medical attention, as well as how you can treat minor spider bites on your own.
A lot of people seem to think that every type of spider is out to bite them. Even though all spiders have fangs, many of them cannot really break the human skin. Those spiders that do break the skin don’t inject venom all the time, and this venom may not be dangerous to humans. Spiders are often timid and choose to hide in places humans don’t frequent much such as attics, garages, and basements.
Spiders are Not Made to Bite Big Mammals
Just so you know, spiders have not been built for battling with big mammals such as humans. Spiders are only meant to capture and kill off other invertebrates. With only some exceptions, specifically widow spiders, the venom of spiders is not fatal enough to cause damages to human tissues.
Of the 40,000 species of spiders worldwide, there are only about a dozen or so that are found to cause serious health issues to an average healthy individual. And even the spiders with venom strong enough to cause harm to a human are poorly equipped to bite you.
Spider fangs are simply not meant to puncture human skin. But, it doesn’t mean that spiders cannot bite humans yet they may find it hard to do. If you will ask arachnologists about getting bitten while handling live spiders, they will surely tell you that they never get bitten at all.
Flight over Fight is the Name of the Game for Spiders
Among the primary ways, spiders can detect threats is through sensing vibrations around them similar to how they can detect the presence of insects that found their way to their webs. Humans tend to make lots of noises and spiders know all too well when you are near them. Once a spider detects your presence, it will rather choose to flight instead of a fight if possible.
Do All Spiders Have Venoms?
As mentioned earlier, spiders all have fangs and almost all of them have venoms as well. The good news for you is that the majority of spider poison is not going to harm humans since it is rather weak.
Many spiders only use this venom for paralyzing their insect victims long enough to eat them. For other species of spiders, they have poison strong enough for killing their prey. This can come in handy when a predator attacks them.
There are several spiders that have poison potent enough for causing pain or even nerve damages in humans. Such spiders are the black widow and brown recluse spiders. When left untreated, it can lead to death.
People often associate tarantulas with the type of poison that can kill people. But, it is far from the truth. Tarantulas have tiny poison glands and the bite will only be as painful as a bee or hornet sting.
Are Spider Venoms Dangerous?
The venom of spiders is definitely not your idea of a great time. When you speak of venom, this is a type of toxin that is often injected. The venomous snakes, for instance, have fangs. Hornets, wasps, and bees have stingers. These are all used for injecting venom.
The spiders that belong to the class of arachnids have chelicerae, the part of their mouths that resemble fangs. This part is used for injecting venom, the potent combination of toxic chemicals. The chemicals can include neurotoxins and proteins that can help in immobilizing prey, as well as cytotoxins that help in breaking down and digesting it.
Even though many spiders are found to be venomous, the great news is that out of over 3,000 spider species in North America, there are just two venomous spider species discovered, as mentioned earlier, the brown recluse and the black widow. The venom of black widow packs a potent dose of neurotoxins even if their bites are rarely fatal. The brown recluse’s venom has cytotoxins that can cause infection and tissue damage when left untreated.
When Do Spiders Bite, Anyway?
Every now and then, spiders do bite a human. But, when does it happen? Most of the time, it happens when a person unknowingly sticks his hands to the habitat of the spider, with the spider left with no choice but to defend itself.
Most bites of the black widow are inflicted on boys or men sitting in pit toilet or outdoor privy. Black widows often spin their web right under the seat’s hole, which is usually a great spot for catching flies. If the penis of the unfortunate person dangles right into the web, the female spider will rush to attack, most likely to defend the egg sacs attached to the web.
Why Spiders Bite in the First Place
If you have arachnophobia or the fear of spiders, well, you are definitely not alone. Considering how comic books and horror films portray spiders are symbols of evil with extreme aggressiveness, it may be difficult to believe that these creepy crawlies are not out to get you and bite you.
The comforting truth is that humans are not included on a spider’s list of desirable or acceptable foods. As far as humans are concerned, the first line of defence of spiders against people is to hide, run, or play dead, or even the combination of these three. A spider will only bite then injects venom as the last resort for saving itself.
Why do spiders feel choosy when it comes to using up their venom, then? This is because the venom is crucial for the survival of a spider. Once they have used up their venom, it will take some time to replenish it.
A certain study conducted on black widows discovered that despite an aggressive poking and harassing of the spiders, they didn’t respond with any venomous bite. The spiders only bit and inject venom when the researchers resorted to squeezing the body of the black widow using fake fingers.
Take note that spiders need the venom for paralyzing the mosquitoes, flies and other pests they eat. Wasting their venom on humans may mean that the spider will starve to death before its body produces more.
What Does a Spider Bite Look Like?
How do you identify spider bites? Most of the time, you cannot. Spider bites commonly resemble other insect bites. You might notice a tiny and itchy spot on the skin and it can also be red in colour.
It might cause skin irritation but you can expect it to clear up in just a few days. There are instances when these bites may hurt but without being more painful than a bee sting. If the bites hurt, though, the pain will clear up in just one hour or so.
Spider bites may look rather different which depends on the specific spider species that inflicted the bite. You will not find any fang marks unless it was caused by bigger species with fangs that are more prominent. Visible fang marks are found in black widow bite.
A brown recluse bite is often called nercotic that means that it can cause rotting of flesh around the spot. It can spread if not treated.
Symptoms and Signs of Poisonous Spider Bites
Symptoms and signs of poisonous spider bites will again depend on the specific spider. For black widow spider bite, the symptoms and signs include the following:
- Pain in the bite area, with the pain moving to the back and abdomen
- Tightness or cramping in abdominal muscles
- Trouble breathing
For brown recluse spider bite, the symptoms and signs include:
- Body chills
- Redness in the bite area
- Chills and fever
- Joint stiffness and pain
- Discoloration and red blisters
How to Treat Spider Bites at Home
There are instances when spider bites can be treated at home. For spider bites that are non-venomous, these are the things you can do:
- Elevate the bite area to lessen the swelling,
- Apply ice pack on and off the area for 10 minutes at a time.
- Take an antihistamine to address itching.
- Use water and soap for cleaning the area to prevent infection.
- When blisters develop, apply an antibiotic ointment on the bite area.
Always seek medical advice if you show symptoms of spider bites or when the symptoms continue to persist over time.
Make sure you seek medical attention when you suspect that your bite came from any of these species:
- Black widow
- Brown recluse
- Hobo spider
- Brazilian wandering spider