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BUGS : Not All Spiders Are Man's Best Friends on Eight Legs

November 26, 1994|From Associated Press

Despite their creepy, crawly ap pearance, most spiders are the homeowner's friends because they help keep insect pests under control. But there are a couple of spiders you do have to watch for.

Spider Homes

Of the few native American species that bite humans, only the black widow and the brown recluse spiders have bites that can be fatal.

It's the female black widow that is dangerous. About one-half-inch long, it has a yellow or red hourglass design on the underside of its shiny black body. The black widow often lives under furniture, in debris and in outbuildings.

The brown recluse spider is also about one-half-inch long. It has a brown body and a distinctive dark, violin-shaped mark on its head. It inhabits places similar to the black widow, as well as folds of clothing.

The black widow is commonly found in the South, and the brown recluse is mainly a denizen of the Southwest and West. Both may appear in other localities.

Spider Bites

All spiders inject venom when they bite, but only the black widow and brown recluse produce it in sufficient strength to injure a person. There is an anti-venom for the black widow's bite, but none for a brown recluse's. The recluse's bite may, however, be treated by large amounts of antihistamines, cortisone and antibiotics. The tarantula's bite, while not in itself serious, may introduce harmful bacteria.

Because most spiders look similar to the untrained eye, it's better to treat the bite than to try to identify the biter. If the bite is very painful, red or swollen, assume that it is dangerous; don't wait for evidence of poisoning.

Get medical help promptly if sweating, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, joint pains, chills, fever or breathing difficulties develop. If you think you have been bitten by a poisonous spider, contact your poison control center immediately. (Look in the front of the telephone directory.) These bites are particularly dangerous to children age 5 and under. Keep the bite site lower than the heart and apply ice or a cold compress to it. A paste of baking soda and water will help soothe the pain.

Spider Webs

Clean debris around your house and in the basement or crawl space to rid your home of many spider breeding places. Sweep webs away with a brush or mop head covered with a clean rag, or use the dusting brush attachment on the vacuum.

Don't stand directly under a spider web when sweeping it from the ceiling. If a spider falls on you, prevent a bite by quickly brushing it off instead of swatting it.

Spiders are among a gardener's best friends. When possible, capture the creature and release it in your garden to feast on crickets, sow bugs and other insect pests.

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