Last week, we wrote about four ridiculous pest myths that we wanted to debunk, one of them was about spiders. Well, today we’re devoting the entire post to spider myths alone, and there are plenty of them! How dangerous are brown recluses? Are daddy longlegs poisonous? This first one we mentioned in last week’s post but we’ve heard more details so figured we’d mention it again.
1. The average person swallows 8 spiders in a lifetime.
This myth was traced back to an article purposely posted to see what people will believe if they read it on the internet. Turns out, even the author that wrote the article cannot be found, so it’s a “myth within a myth!”
2. Brown recluse bites are always deadly.
Brown recluse bites do cause skin necrosis, and if treated properly 90 percent heal without serious injury or skin damage. Although deaths have occurred, they are extremely rare (1 every 5-10 years), and are typically children with prior kidney damage that are unable to fight off the toxin. However, if the symptoms of a recluse bite are diagnosed early, the kidney damage can be reversed with dialysis and hydration.
Rick Vetter from the University of California, Riverside has written a fascinating article about how often necrotic skin lesions are mis-diagnosed as brown recluse bites – even in places like Canada and Alaska where the spider does not exist. Typically, if you are bitten by a brown recluse, it is because you accidentally smashed it. You will definitely feel the bite and see the spider.
On a personal note, my mom was bitten on the face while she was sleeping one night as she rolled over on top of one that had crawled on to her bed. Frightening for sure, and she said it hurt like heck. But, after a quick visit to the doctor and a little medicine to help the swelling, she turned out fine…other than what looked like a black eye for about a week.
3. Daddy longlegs spiders are the most poisonous spiders in the world, but their fangs are too short to penetrate human skin.
This myth was actually busted on Mythbusters, the video is below. There are two different critters called daddy longlegs. The correctly named one is actually not really a spider, but a close relative. Also known as harvestmen, you may see them clumped up on your eaves during the summer. They release a nasty defensive smell when disturbed, but do not have poison glands at all.
The second “daddy longlegs” is a spider. The correct name for them is cellar spiders and they are one of the most common spiders we find inside garages. Adam from Mythbusters forced one to bite him and he did not die, he didn’t even get sick! He described the bite as a slight pin prick and nothing more. Watch the video to see their experiment.
4. Spiders will nest in hairdos that require no washing.
This myth seemed to have originated in the 1950s with the beehive hairstyle, and has been updated with the afro, dreadlocks, and other more modern hair styles. Supposedly the spiders would nest and lay their eggs in the unwashed hairdo, then the babies would hatch and bite the host etc. This myth is completely untrue and ties in with our next myth quite nicely, the answer kind of covers both.
5. Spiders bite humans to feed or cause a rotting flesh wound to nourish their young.
Disgusting, and not true! No spiders feed on humans, their toxins are designed for quick paralysis of insects. Again, most of the time you have to force a spider to bite you. Spiders attempt to lay their eggs in protected areas because they can take a month or more to hatch. Thus, they would never place their egg sacs on a living, moving animal because the sacs could get destroyed during normal activities (i.e. running, laying down, grooming).