(KRQE) – There are well over 100 species of spiders in New Mexico alone, so it’s likely many Americans might not meet the same species twice in their lifetimes. But do any of them pose a threat to you?
Jason Schaller, curator of entomology at the ABQ BioPark in Albuquerque, says it can be difficult to figure out which one’s which.
“The thing is, you have so many small brown species that all look kind of similar but come from a variety of different families and superfamilies and genera,” Shaller says. “There’s a lot of different spiders — that’s kind of the bottom line.”
One spider that people in Albuquerque see a lot of is the Apache recluse – not the brown recluse, which it’s often mistaken for. “There’s about four out of five recluse spiders in the U.S. The brown recluse is the largest, most venomous – that’s from Texas and the southeast,” says Schaller. “In the southwest, we get the Apache recluse, which is central New Mexico; central and southeastern Arizona and New Mexico.”
Schaller says, like the western black widow, the Apache recluse is medically significant but its bite is extremely rare. “It’s hard to get them to bite; it’s usually accidental. Putting a finger in a crevice where one happens to be hiding, keeping your finger against it so it can actually get its fangs in,” says Schaller.
Speaking of black widows, Schaller says the number of confirmed deaths solely from black widow bites is zero. “… A lot of times, a black widow death is suspected or it correlates with underlying conditions – [being] elderly, heart conditions,” Schaller says. “So, it’s really not a spider you should fear at all.”
Basically, the likelihood of getting bitten by a black widow is rare and if you do get bit, you won’t need to seek medical attention. Schaller says most black widow bites will cause fever, pain, muscle cramps, and spasms, and most people get sick for about a day. “So it is a nasty bite, but it’s not going to kill you,” he says.
The recluse bite is different from the widow bite in that there are cytotoxins that will not cause pain but there will be an open wound that usually heals in a few weeks. Schaller says there’s only one recorded brown recluse death, and that was of a small child.
Schaller says that while all spiders are venomous, everything outside of the recluse and the black widow is nowhere close to being dangerous to humans. “Any spider you see around you, really can’t hurt you at all,” says Schaller.
What about the myth that people swallow a certain number of spiders every year in their sleep? Schaller says it’s completely made up.
“You probably eat more spiders than you realize just in your food and stuff because there’s just tiny ones, small species, babies of small species that kind of get everywhere, so you’ve probably eaten one without knowing it,” says Schaller. He equates it to the probability of eating dust or any small bits of material floating around.
So, while they may look creepy or scary when you see one out of the corner of your eye, the spiders in and around your home are just trying to survive. If anything, think of them as a tiny pest control company working around the clock to keep your home insect-free.