Recluse & Other Spider Bites

This site is not here to promote the few bites that people get from spiders but to encourage people to understand spiders a bit better and how they are of benefit to us. This includes the fact that of the few people who suffer from spider bites, many of these aren't spider bites but from something else. Here's a photo of a bite that doctors diagnosed as a recluse bite which turned out to be something different altogether!! Read on for what the bite was from!!

Supposed brown recluse bite was diagnosed by a hospital in southwest Virginia. After many tests, the bite turned out to probably be from a Lone Star Tick which is the most common tick species in VA. Estimated date of tick bite was early May 2013. Note they had an extremely wet spring [record-breaking], which caused unusual amounts of vegetation growth. The Virginia Dept. of Health can provide lots more interesting details about the many new tick-borne pathogens which seem to be invading the region.

Photo supplied with permission of the bearer of the bite who does not wish to be identified but agreed  to have it published in the public interest, to show how bites from other creatures are often misidentified as being from a recluse or hobo simply because they look similar!!

 

However treatment is often vastly different depending on what has caused the wound and it is best to get a correct identification to hasten recovery!! glen

 

Brown Recluse Spiders are also known as Fiddleback spiders or Violin Spiders and their bite has been believed to cause a very serious reaction.  However, recent theories tend to dispute the fact that most of these bites are from the brown recluse. According to Rick Vetter from the American Arachnological Society - "even if you have a recluse, bites from them are extremely rare, despite all the stories.  Many of the really graphic nasty wounds you see on the internet as recluse bites can also be other conditions like necrotizing bacteria and pyoderma gangrenosum.  Ninety percent of brown recluse bites are not medically significant, heal very nicely often without medical. intervention and treatment for most brown recluse bites is simple first aid (RICE therapy – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).  Many conditions are misdiagnosed as recluse bites when their cause is something else like infection, bad reaction to medication, diabetic ulcers, Lyme disease, or other underlying medical conditions." This is not to suggest that anyone should go around handling any spiders - brown recluse or otherwise - treat all spiders with caution and respect!!

Sections below are: Recluse Bite Leg, Recluse Bite Thumb, Wolf spider Bite (allergic reaction), Sac Spider Bite, Unidentified Bites.

 

Recluse Bite Leg:  [top]

Here's a page with photos of the progression of a supposed Brown Recluse Spider bite to the leg. I have provided these images as a public service and do not claim that the stories are true or correct. These photos were sent to me by Dale Losher of Illinois, USA. Here's Dale's email:

"Thought I would send an update on the Brown Recluse bite here in Pekin, Illinois. So far so good. The graft took hold and I may need one more surgery. I have seen several Brown Recluses in other areas in Illinois. Hopefully a new study on these critters here in Illinois will identify populated areas. - Dale Losher"

Here's the newspaper article that tells of Dale's bite and also that of another man in the same area. Click here.

Here's Dale's letter to the editor describing how his bite happened:

"It was a quite morning at 5:00 am on May 6th, 2002 and I was lying in the bed with my fiancée.  I felt a slight tickle on my upper thigh of my left leg under the covers and proceeded to brush it away. As my hand struck the blanket I felt a slight stinging sensation on my leg. Little did I know that moment was going to change my life forever, I lifted the covers to see the outline of a small, brown quarter size spider on my bed.  My fiancée woke up startled and asked me “What is it?”   I said, “It looks like a spider. Hold on”.  I ran to the bathroom, grabbed some tissue and quickly grabbed the spider and threw it in the toilet.  My fiancée came into the bathroom to look at the spider and all we said at that moment was “Wow, that is a big spider”. I flushed the toilet with a feeling of personal victory.  Almost within the hour the bite area swelled to a quarter size area.  That afternoon I went to the doctor and he asked me if it was a brown recluse.  I have never seen a brown recluse before but both my fiancée and me agreed that it quite possibly was after hearing the description of one but I had always thought those spiders were in southern Illinois. The doctor gave me some antibiotics and circled the area with a marker and sent me on my way.  Later that evening a white infected area formed in the bite site.  I am told this is called the “bulls eye” and is a definite tell tale sign of a brown recluse bite. The area around the bite site turned blue, dark red and had gone outside of the circled area.  My fiancée took me to OSF Emergency room where they rushed me to surgery. I spent eight days with an open cut at the bite area to drain the spiders toxins from it and almost 24 hours a day on IV antibiotics and pain medication.  It the end I had a 5 inch in diameter area of dead tissue, a result from the toxins, cut out of my upper leg. My next step in 8 days is skin grafting, which I am told is skin taken from another part of my body and place on the cut away area. But that area will never look the same. I am a resident of Pekin in a suburb type area. Never would I have thought this type of spider was right here in Pekin or central Illinois.  Please let your readers know about brown recluse and its consequences.  It seems most people know little about this spider. If I had waited a day longer I might have lost my leg to this spider.

Dale Losher"

Here's Dale's Photos. Click each one for a larger view.

 
First day of the bite
Day 3 and the skin is dying
9 days after the bite
11 days later
Waiting to see the new skin day 38 after
Finally new skin day 38 after the bite
March 2003
Recluse Bite Oct 2005
Show More

Recluse Bite Thumb: [top​]
Here are photos of the progression of a supposed Brown Recluse Spider bite to the thumb. These were photos were sent to me with no way of acknowledging copyright or verification that they are correct. They are often contained in an email warning about the brown recluse spider.  Click here for a site about these photos which says in part: "Whether these photographs actually depict the effects of a brown recluse spider bite is difficult to determine. The accompanying text provides no useful identifying information, such as where the putative victim lives or where he was bitten, whether he obtained a diagnosis of his wound from a doctor, whether he sought medical treatment, etc. Various accounts place these pictures as having originated in Missouri, Wisconsin or California. Even if these photographs are genuine, they likely create an exaggerated sense of the danger posed by brown recluse spiders. As Phillip Anderson, a Missouri physician who specializes in brown recluse spider bites, explained in an article for the medical journal Missouri Medicine, 'Almost all brown recluse spider bites heal nicely in two to three months without medical treatment at all. Also the long-term medical outcome is excellent without treatment.' Furthermore, says Anderson, 'We are not aware of any verifiable deaths caused by the bite of the North American brown recluse spider.' (He noted that several deaths from such wounds 'had been reported in medical journals, but none of the reports is convincing.') He also reported that out of 'about 1,000 credible recluse spider bites,' he was only aware of 'about a dozen cases of impressive, sustained hemolysis.' " Further information on the Snopes site has named the owner of the thumb and also provided this link to the photos of the surgery needed to repair the thumb. Click each photo for a larger view.

 

Wolf spider Bite (allergic reaction):  [top​]
Here's an email from Mary Leigh regarding her wolf spider bite. Please note the fact that she has an allergic reaction to the spider's bite and that most people suffer little to no problems with the bite of a wolf spider.

"I live in Lakewood New Jersey. I had a nasty allergic reaction to a wolf spider. Normally, they don't bother with humans, but it happened to crawl up my pants leg, and I hit my pants and got bit. Fever, swelling, burning, itching, pain, achy, all my glands were swollen and painful caused by an infection in my lymphatic system due to my body's reaction. It wasn't necessarily the venom or saliva itself, but the fact that my body will not tolerate it, just the same as say ragweed, mosquitoes and yellow jackets to me. Pretty nasty though. TREATMENT: lance, clean, antibiotic ointment and oral antibiotics (Keflex 500 mg. 3 times daily."

Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 9
Day 10
Show More
 

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Sac Spider Bite: [top​]

Yellow Sac Spider - Cheiracanthium inclusum
Yellow Sac Spiders are relatively small (10 mm body length), and are yellowish in colour; they are difficult to distinguish from one another. Bites generally produce instant, intense stinging pain, not unlike that of the sting of a wasp or hornet. This may be followed by localised redness, swelling, blistering and itching; these manifestations may or may not evolve into a necrotic lesion, but when that occurs healing is usually complete within eight weeks. Side effects may include chills, fever, headache, dizziness, nausea, anorexia, and sometimes shock.

 

Here's a couple of stories from viewers. Please note that with these bites, as in most cases, no spider was seen to verify it as the cause of the bite.

Wilna's Story:
Hi there I stay in south Africa in Cape Town and was reading the story on the girl that was bitten by the sac spider. Well I had exactly the same experience. Also thought it was mosquito bites. I had four bite marks on one leg. And it itched terrible. The next evening it formed the first sac. Luckily I realised with my leg swelling something is wrong. Although I wasn't sick at all. No fever nothing. But also made the mistake by popping this terrible blister. The dr said I should have left it. But after popping it felt a great relieve. It also after a terrible set of antibiotics and injections for tetanus etc is now getting better though. The wound is very raw. But I will be fine. I will attach another pic of how this mr spiders sac look like after a few hours after the bite. Hope this helps other people as well. Never found the spider though. But we had a lot of rain recently. Maybe they were coming out? Regards. Wilna

Carrie's Story:
I thought I'd share a spider story with you, and to warn people, too. I live in SE Michigan, my back yard is on the southern border of a State Park, so I encounter various wildlife and insects all summer long...

2 weeks ago today, I woke up for work as usual. The side of my upper left thigh was really itching. I checked it out, and there was what I thought at the time was a mosquito bite. I figured one had gotten through a pinhole in a screen in the night. Ah well, I'd been bitten by quite a few on a canoe trip on the Rifle River the previous Saturday... I got to work, and the area continued to itch. I went to the restroom and noticed there was now a small blister in the center of the bite about the size of a BB. I made the unfortunate mistake of picking at and popping it, thinking it must have been an ingrown hair, not a mosquito bite. Clear fluid came out that that was that...

Over the course of the next 2 days, the site grew larger. It was very hot to the touch, painful to sit or lay on, and the hole where the blister had been became a dark black looking indentation. The raised area surrounding the wound was very hard like a golf ball. The adjacent skin surrounding the swollen areas was now becoming an almost maroon/purple color, and the swelling was visible even with jeans on. I mentioned what had transpired thus far to a couple outdoorsy coworkers, who told me they believed it sounded like some sort of spider bite. With all this going on, I knew it was no mosquito or ingrown hair.

Friday afternoon I had to make an emergency trip up north due to another insect bite, my fiance is allergic to wasps and had been stung at work and was in the hospital! It is just over 2 hours to his current residence. It was constantly uncomfortable and painful the entire drive up. During the night, he rolled over onto my leg and I nearly hit the ceiling, it felt as though I was being stabbed in the leg!

Saturday morning I had to turn around and go home to attend a BBQ hosted by my best friend. The pain and swelling was getting worse and the discomfort was growing. I made the mistake of having worn denim slacks, which were further aggrivating the site. By 8p that evening, the pain was so bad that I had to borrow some baggy cotton pants and I kept having episodes of nausea. At that time, I showed the area to my best friend and another acquiantance. She's studying to be a nurse and advised me that the area looked as though it was becoming infected and insisted on putting an antiseptic dressing on it.

There was no improvement on Sunday and I was again urged to seek medical care immediately by friends. I took my daughter to my parent's home, my father also insisted I seek care immediately. I had been nauseated all day and was getting a headache. The drive to my parents was nearly unbearable, as I felt every tiny bump in the road as though I was being pricked with 100 needles in the site, and stabbed over the train tracks... I decided to go to the Emergency Room.

When I got there, I had a fever of 101 degrees and was immediately given an antibiotic shot and tetanus shot. The doctor came in and confirmed it as an "unidentified spider bite, cutaneously abcessed" (severely infected). I was put on an antibiotic drip for 30 mins and sent home with 2000mg antibiotics a day for 10 days. I got home around midnight and attempted to sleep. I was woken up at 3am with a "dripping" feeling around the area. The site had begun to ooze pus and blood as the antibiotics moved in... It oozed the entire day so badly that I had to stay home from work. The only dressing that seemed to hold under the conditions were maxi pads that I cut in half and taped over the site. 1/2 way through the day I felt a relief type feeling. A tablespoonful of grey puss had bursted out of the bite, and I had blood dripping down my leg through a deep open hole in the sore. It was the single most disgusting thing on my body I'd ever encountered...

It is now 2 weeks later... I was curious as to what culprit this could have been, and upon researching the internet (including your website), I came across the "Yellow Sac Spider". Upon reviewing the symptoms and pictures of bites, I can tell you I firmly believe this nastiness was the result of a Sac bite. Research indicates that the majority of Sac bites occur while the victim is asleep, as they are nocturnal hunters that seek warmth and humidity. I sleep on my side, and undoubtedly had rolled over on it. I found out that the Sac is one of the 4 species in the USA considered potentially harmful, and is most common. Interestingly enough, I had killed one in my shower only a few weeks before the bite happened. I remember it, because I had never seen a translucent yellow spider of this type before. Where there was one, there was bound to be more...

I write this long-winded diatribe as a warning to others. If you come across one of these suckers, by all means, dispose of it! I had a week of pain and discomfort, a yet undisclosed but undoubtedly huge emergency room bill, prescription meds costs and a day of lost wages all over this tiny creep!

Thanks for your interesting and highly helpful website!

~ Carrie in Flat Rock, MI

 
 

Unidentified Spider Bites:  [top​]
1. Here's an email and some photos from Mechelle who has been bitten on the arm.

 

From Mechelle:
I think this is one or more spider bites. The insect was trapped under my watch. I did not feel it bite me. Let me know what you think? Photos are from day 3.

Here are some replies that have been emailed to me: 

"Concerning the woman with the bites that formed under her watch. it looks like scabies. i had this on my wrists palms webbing of fingers toes and feet. with random postules forming on arms and legs. and thats what it looked like  - Ian"

"Hello, I've stumbled upon your site and viewed this picture of a bite that the woman states must have been from an insect under her watch.

The rash looks very similar to a skin reaction I encounter anytime I wear a watch with a "questionable" metal backing or lesser value jewellery. If I continue to wear the watch or jewellery the rash worsens quickly and often pusses and takes weeks to heal as the metal is still reacting with my skin after I remove it. If I was presented with this picture I would first ask if the watch was new or had been recently polished or cleaned. If it was a new watch she may have gotten a hold of a bad watch, if it's a watch she's worn for a while with no reaction, she may react to it after a polishing or cleaning if the watch has a "plated" back. Just my opinion.......Gina, Austin, Elkin, NC" 

 

"Perhaps this picture is of a Chigger bite… We have them A Lot here in the Great Smoky Mountains – Tennessee - USA … Here is a great site just in case….. http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/hardin/md/chiggers.html  Charlotte."

"Hello, I ran across your website accidentally. While looking through the "spider bite" pictures, I found the pictures from Mechelle, who thought she had been bitten by a spider trapped under her watch. I tend to agree with the person who replied that it looked like a reaction to the metal the watch was made from, or perhaps cleaning of the watch. I have very severe nickel dermatitis, and I will break out in sores like these if I wear jewellery made from anything except gold, 10K or better. Even gold-plated jewellery, sterling silver or tungsten will cause this reaction on my skin. Time of contact can be as little as 1 hour or less in me. These sores swell up like little pimples on my skin, can spread if popped, and are filled with a clear puss. No medication I have tried has cleared these bumps up any faster than just good, old fashioned time. Hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl cream, etc. does seem to relieve the intense itching associated with these bumps. I have no experience with spider bites, but these bumps look like a skin reaction with the metal or cleaning products associated with the watch. Just trying to help you calm unnecessary fears over spiders (even though I hate and avoid them),
Trish in Alabama"

"The bites to me look more like the stings of fireants, but I would think you would have felt that as many times as it looks to have stung you. We have a lot of fire ants that are now in the TN area, I was stung on the ankle by some fire ants and it looked just like a zit everywhere they bit or stung, but if you didn't feel anything it is more than likely a chigger and you have to get it out of your body to get the infection out of it. If it is chiggers instead of squeezing them out and maybe let them dig in somewhere else, apply a heavy coat of nail polish on each bite. I know this sounds funny, but a chigger breaths through your skin if you cut off its air it will die. If you do decide to bust them, use rubbing alcohol or anti-bacterial hand sanitizer on everything around the bites and also on your hand if you don't use gloves or tissue to squeeze them out. If you grew up in eastern TN or anywhere in the deep south you have gotten chiggers at least once as a child playing in the woods and field areas. I do hope this helps with your situation."

Unidentified Spider Bites:  [top​]

2. Here's an email from Jarod who is a soldier. He would like any help or suggestions from qualified people regarding his bite and symptoms.
 

Here's the details and a photo.

"To whom it may concern,

My name is PFC Jarod Miller. I am a soldier at Ft. Drum NY and had some questions concerning a possible spider bite I received while I was in basic training at Ft. Benning GA, in the summer of 2004. I have seen many different specialists including Dermatology (Ft. Drum and at Walter Reed), General surgery, Allergy, Endocrinology and Pain Management.

I was laying under a tree getting ready for a 15 mile road march, I assume I was bite when i got up and started to fasten my gear. A couples of hours past and we took a break for water and when i sat down my belt pressed against my abdomen and after I investigated the area i noticed what seemed to be a large pimple with yellow puss in the center. I showed my Drill Sergent and he said it might be a spider bite, by the end of the march it had doubled in size and and started turning black. There was a few other people in my platoon that had gotten bit (and had seen what bit them) and said it was a Brown Recluse. They all had the same thing happen to them when they were treated for it witch was a draining and packing w/ gauze. It looked like the typical recluse bite, but here is were there experience differs from mine, their's eventually went away mine seemed to go away and even healed over and left what looked like a welt.


One month later during a particularly hard morning of PT on a 5 mile run, I started to feel sick again and the same spot were the spider bite was turned red and started purtruding. That same day I started to get blisters with black around them. So for the 16 months I have gotten these blisters every time i do something to strenuous. The effected area has also gone from the size of a quarter to the size of a soft ball. I also have a lot of underlying pain and sensitivity to touch and movement. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and look forward to hearing your opinion, and if you need any more info or have any question please write back @ JarodMill5@aol.com or call evenings 315-688-2845. I also have pictures that show the changes from month to month."

Unidentified Spider Bites:  [top​]
3. Here's an email from Kim who has been bitten on the hand. Kim has seen 4 doctors now, the best they can do is call it a brown recluse.
 

Here's the details, the photos are not that good unfortunately but if anyone has any ideas on what her bite might be please email: tahoetumbaga@sbcglobal.net
 

"Spider Bite almost 3 weeks after initial bite, infection spread all over hand including thumb which you can still see in one of the pics. Infection spread to the blood stream causing high fever, lethargy, vomiting, pain, burning, and confusion.

 

Infection while clearing at the bite site itself continues to manifest itself in breakouts of sores similar in nature to impetigo on the face. Patient has been tested for staph infections, herpes etc. all tests were negative. Infection is persistant despite repeated courses of steriods, anti-inflamitories, and anti-biotics. Bite occured in Northern California in the sierra mountains. Would not rule out species from other areas as patient was cleaning out storage boxes from all over the USA. If anyone has any idea what we are dealing with, please email.
tahoetumbaga@sbcglobal.net."