Brown Recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) are tiny but deadly. However, they don’t go around biting people as a habit, and they don’t live all over the U.S. The fear of being bitten by one is akin to the fear of plane crashes, Ebola, or shark attack: the consequences are bad, but the odds of it actually happening are smaller than you think.
A study was done about ten years ago to see how bad people were at identifying Brown Recluse spiders. People, focusing on people who should know or claimed to know, were asked to send in their spiders. Brown Recluse spiders were submitted from 49 of the US states and from Canada. They exist, however, in only 17 states and not at all in Canada. There is a spider that lives in California, a very common house spider that had never been properly studied. It does look a bit like a Brown Recluse. So many of those were sent in (California is NOT one of the 17 states Brown Recluse spiders live in) that spider experts were able to use the collection of those spiders, not Brown Recluse but some other species, to do the first major study of its anatomy.
Dang it, wouldn’t you know that I have to live in a brown recluse habitat? There’s plenty more you should know about not worrying about these spiders in Greg Laden’s review of the book The Brown Recluse Spider by Richard Vetter at ScienceBlogs. -via Catherine Scott
(Image credit: UC Riverside)