Arachnophobia is the irrational fear of spiders and other arachnids. This phobia is incredibly common for many people, with spiders causing them fear, panic and anxiety, to scream, cry or maybe even run away.
However, spiders are good for pest control, some see them as a symbol of good luck and if you do happen to be bit by one, the bite is usually no worse than a bee sting or a mosquito bite.
Regardless of where you stand on spiders, Bob Culler, park ranger at Bays Mountain Park, wants to offer folks some advice on living with spiders, the most common ones found in our region and some tips on how to avoid being bitten by these eight-legged critters.
East Tennessee is home to a great number of spider species, including garden spiders, riding spiders, wolf spiders, orb weavers and jumping spiders. Two of the most notorious spiders found in our region, and the ones that cause the most consternation, are the brown recluse and black widow spiders.
“Almost all spiders are predators, and all spiders are venomous, it’s just that brown recluses and black widow spiders cause the most symptoms in the most people,” Culler said.
Brown recluse and black widow spiders are most active during the warmer months of the year, though you can still encounter them during the colder months.
Brown recluse spiders are more of an indoor spider and can be found in old barns and sheds and unused spaces in a house, such as closets and storage areas not disturbed often. If you see a cobweb inside your home, chances are it does not belong to a brown recluse.
“They don’t spin much of a web at all,” Culler said.
Black widow spiders tend to be found outdoors, in cool, damp shady areas like old wood piles, inside water meters and under tree stumps. The web of a black widow spider is distinct – it looks like a raggedy and tangled mess of a web, Culler noted.
Black widow spiders have neurotoxic venom, which can cause pain, convulsions, temporary blindness and paralysis of the breathing muscles. The bite from a black widow spider can kill a person, but death is rare, Culler said, adding that a bite from a brown recluse spider is “extremely” rare.
“The symptoms we attribute to brown recluse bites, turns out are probably MRSA infections,” Culler said. “The bite is where it raises a white blister on the skin and the flesh rots away around the bite. That’s also similar symptoms to MRSA infection. We’re not sure how many bites are from the spider’s venom or from an infection.”
If you happen to get bitten by either spider, seek medical attention. Most times, medical personnel will treat the symptoms. With a black widow bite, there is an anti-venom available if necessary.
Culler offers this advice to best avoid spider bites:
- Don’t reach your hand into places you cannot see.
- If you leave a jacket in an outside shed, shake out the sleeves.
- Shake out shoes or boots before putting them on.
- If you see a web in a dark, shaded area, do not stick your fingers into it.
- If a spider is on your skin, don’t crush it. Flick it off with your finger.
Kingsport’s Communications Department is conducting a multi-part series this year on “Living with Nature,” which will highlight outdoor safety and tips on how to protect you and your family from some of the animals found in our region (bears, deer, skunks, raccoons and snakes).