Recluse spider bites can cause severe injuries, death - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Recluse spider bites can cause severe injuries, death

Imagine if you bought a new house and once you moved in, you noticed spiders crawling around everywhere. 

Darren Bockhorn and his wife purchased a home in southeast Missouri. Shortly after settling into their new place, the couple noticed lots of brown recluse spiders.

They purchased sticky traps and placed them all over the house to catch the spiders.

"I've counted over 100 in the house right now," Bockhorn said.

 "Over 200, total, with the ones I've killed and thrown away."


Darren Bockhorn trapped dozens of spiders all over the floor of his daughter's bedroom.

His wife, Jessica, was even bitten by one of the spiders.

"She had looked in the mirror and noticed one crawling out of her hair onto her forehead, and she had been bit[ten] on her left shoulder blade," he remembers


Brown recluse spiders primarily live in the Midwestern and Southern states of the U.S., usually outdoors underneath rocks and logs.

They are known as ‘hitchhikers' and if you visit a state where they live, these spiders could easily hide in your luggage and wind up in other areas of the country where they're not commonly found.

Once they invade your home, they prefer dark places like closets, shoes and attics. 

Since the Bockhorn's home sat uninhabited for nearly a year before they bought it, experts suspect that's probably when the spiders moved in. 

Recluse spiders don't normally bite humans unless they are trapped against your skin.

Entomologist Dawn Flynn says a small bite on the face, however, could result in serious health issues. 

"If the ulcer was to spread, it could hit the optic nerve and you could go blind," Flynn says. "It could hit the auditory nerve and you could lose your hearing. Also, if it's in your pants, and gets you between the legs, you could end up being sterilized."


The toxin in a brown recluse isn't generally fatal, but it is necrotic, meaning it kills the muscle tissue on the surface of the skin and will spread if not treated. 

In rare cases, very young children and older adults have died after they were bitten. 

So remember, spiders like to hide in empty boxes, under containers and in dark, hard-to-reach places in your home. A broom and vacuum could be a good defense.  

"If there's enough of a hole for a quarter to be inserted, then that's enough for the brown recluse," Flynn says.


When you're outdoors, always wear protective clothing like gloves and a long-sleeved shirt before handling items in your garage or yard that haven't been disturbed for a while.

Old clothes and shoes are worth an inspection and a good shake before putting them on.

If you do have an out-of-control spider problem, it's probably time to call a professional exterminator.

That's what Bockhorn did, and he's hoping his wife and kids will soon move back in.

If you suspect you have been bitten by a brown recluse spider, don't kill it. 

Instead, put the insect in a sealed container like a bag or jar. A spider that's still intact will allow a medical lab to accurately identify the insect, and help physicians determine the best treatment you need. 

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:

The following information is from Dawn Flynn who is an entomologist at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, NC. 

  • Brown recluse spiders are typically found in the middle section of the central states including Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa and upper Texas.  
  • Female spiders can give birth to 40 – 50 spiders in each sac and she can lay up to 4 – 5 sacs in a lifetime.  
  • Brown recluse spiders don't build webs like other spiders.  
  • A brown recluse spider is more of a hunter. It finds and pounces on its prey without building a web.
  • They do spin a loose web in their lair where they hide. The female then uses that web to help her make her egg sac.
  • By definition, a recluse is someone who hides and doesn't prefer to be around people. A brown recluse spider behaves the same way. 
  • During the day, it stays hidden unless it is disturbed and comes out and prowls at night to find its prey. It is reclusive during the day.
  • Typically, a brown recluse bite will have a sunken area in the center where the bite occurred surrounded by a red inflamed area on the outside. Very frequently, you would have a blister on top in the center.
  • Tips for eliminating brown recluse spiders: Eliminate cardboard boxes and other hiding places. Fix crevices and places where they can hide inside your home.
  • Take a vacuum cleaner and suck up debris in those cracks and crevices.
  • Even if there is no water in your basement, spiders can survive by living off the moisture of other insects they eat.
  • Most insects do not imbibe water. Butterflies, however, do drink water, and often land on puddles on the road, but that's primarily so they can obtain salts.
  • You can use caulk to seal cracks in your home so spiders won't be able to nest there.
  • How do you know if you are truly bitten by a Recluse? Go to a reliable source where there is a picture. Go on the web or refer to a science textbook.
  • If you see a spider you think fits the description of a brown recluse spider, put it in a bag and take to a specialist who will be able to identify it. Then, you can take the necessary measures to keep your home protected.
  • The bites from brown recluse spiders are venomous, but not fatal under normal circumstances.
  • Typically, a brown recluse spider's bite will not cause you to die, but it could trigger other complications among the old or very young.
  • When you return from a trip, place a large, light-colored piece of paper outside or in your garage. Carefully, remove each garment from your suitcase, and vigorously shake them over the paper. That will help you more easily spot any spiders, bugs or scorpions you could be bringing into your home.

The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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