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spider near toothbrush

What are spiders?

Spiders are not insects, but rather arachnids. Arachnids differ from insects by having eight legs rather than six and a body split into two sections rather than three.

Spiders are found in ecosystems worldwide and number over 45,000 species. Spiders vary in size from the tiny Samoan moss spider, which is only .011 inches long, to the huge Goliath birdeater, a tarantula with about a foot of leg span.

The vast majority of the nearly 4000 spiders found in the United States are harmless. Even as most spiders bite, their fangs are too minuscule or weak to pierce human skin. Their bites, however, can result in painful, red sores that heal in as varying a span of time as from one week to one month, depending on the species. Spider bites that penetrate skin and inject venom can result in significant health problems, such as hives, difficulty breathing, fever, nausea, muscle spasms, and weakness or lightheadedness, to name a few.

Although most spiders generate venom to capture prey, a handful of species are harmful to humans. The black widow's venom, for instance, is a painful neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system. Brown recluse bites, as well as those of the Loxosceles genus, can cause localized tissue damage that renders an area necrotic.

In this article, you'll learn more about these arachnids, as well as harmless and harmful spiders, how to identify them, and what to do if you suspect you have a problem with spiders in your home.


spider on web near house

What do spiders look like?

Spiders differ from insects in that they have two body segments instead of three. This includes the cephalothorax, which houses the eyes, mandibles, legs, and abdomen.

Spiders have four pairs of legs, whereas insects only have three. They have modified appendages called pedipalps positioned in front of the mouth and look like an extra pair of legs in some species.

Spider Anatomy

The majority of spiders have eight eyes on the front of their cephalothorax, although others have fewer. The positioning of these eyes is frequently used to differentiate distinct spider species. The genital parts, spiracles, and spinnerets for spinning silk are found in the unsegmented abdomen. The abdomen of most spiders is not segmented externally. A narrow waist called the pedicel connects the cephalothorax and abdomen. A spider's body length ranges from 0.5 to 90 mm, depending on the species.


spider anatomy diagram

Cephalothorax

The prosoma, commonly known as the cephalothorax, is made up of two surfaces: a ventral sternum and a dorsal carapace. Most of the spider's exterior appendages, such as the eyes, chelicerae and other mouthpieces, pedipalps, and limbs, are linked to the cephalothorax.

Spiders, similar to other arachnids, can't chew their meal; instead, they have a mouth structured as a short drinking straw used to suck up their prey's liquid insides.

Appendages

Spiders have eight walking legs on average. They don't have antennae; the pedipalps are a set of appendages in front of the legs. The legs of spiders are divided into seven segments. The trochanter, coxa, femur, tibia, patella, tarsus, metatarsus, and tibia are some of the bones that make up the body. Spiders employ specialized and sensitive attachments on their limbs to pick up vibrations, smells, noises, and air currents because they lack antennae.

Eyes, vision, and sense organs

Spiders typically have eight eyes. One of the traits used to differentiate various species is the particular configuration of the eyes. One set of eyes may be more evolved than the others, or there may be no eyes in certain cave species. Many spider families, including leaping spiders and wolf spiders, have good to superb vision. The primary set of eyes in jumping spiders can even see color.

Pedicel

A narrow flexible pedicel connects the cephalothorax to the belly. This enables a spider to shift its abdomen at any angle, allowing it to spin silk without moving its cephalothorax.

Abdomen

The underside of a spider's abdomen contains two rigid plates surrounding the lungs. These are called epigastric plates. A furrow divides the section of the lungs and the more anterior portion of the abdomen with a fold called the epigastric furrow.

Spider Reproduction and Lifecycle

spider's life cycle has three phases: egg, spiderling, and adult. Depending on the family, spiders can release up to 3,000 eggs, typically in one or more silk sacs. Spiders progress through their larval stages within the egg. Since not all of the eggs will mature, spiders lay a large number of them. The spiderlings that arise from the eggs are tiny replicas of their adult counterparts.

Where do spiders live?

Spider habitats are diverse. Almost all spiders fall into one of two categories: hunting spiders and web-building spiders. Hunting spiders have a penchant for moving around and aggressively seeking prey, meaning you are unlikely to find a colony of hunting spiders in your home.

On the other hand, spiders that build webs are more likely to go indoors. Web builders may spawn in vast numbers after they've settled in, which makes them all the more likely to be in your home.

Spider Webs

Spiders that use silk to catch prey employ a variety of tactics. Ground-dwelling spiders build silk-lined tunnels with silk trap doors that they shoot out of to catch moving insects.

Many web spiders weave silk sheets in foliage, typically in layered form, and frequently lie on anchor strings that entangle unsuspecting insects. Cobweb spiders employ sticky web threads to anchor their three-dimensional web.

What are the different types of spider webs?

You won't know for certain what type of spider wove a web until you actually see the spider that made it. However, if you look at the web's form or design before destroying it, you may be able to determine which family it belongs to.

Not all webs are spherical and employed to catch prey. Some webs, such as that of the brown recluse, are tiny and serve as a nursery for storing and protecting eggs or offspring.

Some types of spider webs are:

  • Funnel Web
  • Tangle (Cob) Web
  • Sheet Web
  • Mesh Web
  • Orb-Weave Web

What are the different types of spiders?

Although there are thousands of different types of spiders, these creatures can be split into two categories:

Harmless Spiders

The vast majority of spiders are harmless. If anything, many of these harmless spiders can be helpful in eating other pests. If you've ever heard a line from a classic poem, “Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly," you'll know that spiders can eat common household pests such as gnats, flies, or mosquitoes.

Some of the most prevalent species of harmless spiders include house spiders. These small spiders are less than ¼ an inch long and are usually brown, though their hue can vary greatly. Females are typically larger and have yellowish legs while the males appear slightly smaller than the females of the species and have orange legs. Both have dark rings on their legs as a telltale sign that you're looking at a common house spider. Although this species can be located beneath furniture and closets, it is most usually seen in sheds, barns, and garages, where it is easier for them to catch prey. They weave webs around openings and under eaves outside, especially near light sources that attract prospective food sources. House spiders present minimal risk to people, although they can bite if threatened.

Dangerous Spiders

While most spiders are harmless, there are several different types of dangerous spiders that are venomous and pose a threat to humans. Within the United States, two of the most common dangerous spiders are brown recluse spiders and the black widow. (We'll delve into these two common venomous spiders later in this article.)

However, there are several other spiders that you should be aware of that can leave a painful bite or cause illness. These venomous spiders include:

  • The wolf spider, which can give painful bites if provoked. This spider can be found throughout the United States and Canada.
  • The hobo spider, which is venomous. Its bite can cause blisters that burst and afflict people with symptoms such as an intense headache, weakness, blurred vision, and even temporary memory loss. These spiders can be found throughout the Northwest in the U.S., as well as Southwestern Canada.
  • The brown widow spider, which is smaller than the black widow and can be identified by their brown coloring and their telltale hourglass markings. While the black widow has a red hourglass, the brown widow has either a yellow or orange hourglass. The brown widow delivers a neurotoxin comparable to the black widow, however, its bite imparts a smaller dose. While the brown widow is not as dangerous as the black widow, you should still be cautious.
  • The mouse spider, which, while not directly aggressive towards humans, can pose a danger if threatened. The mouse spider has fangs that protrude from its red head. It has a brown or grey body – similar in coloring to that of a mouse. Its fangs deliver a painful bite that can be particularly dangerous to small children.

Need some help identifying a spider?

If you are unsure about spider type identification, you can always consult the experts. We will identify any spiders in your home and provide a customized solution. Some common spider types are:

  • Cellar spiders
  • Domestic house spider
  • Garden spider
  • Funnel web spider

Spider Bites

For some, spiders are intriguing creatures. For others, they are a common phobia and nightmare. Regardless of whether you have arachnophobia or are ambivalent towards these eight-legged critters, you don't want to end up with a spider bite.

What are spider bite signs and symptoms?

There are several warning signs that you may have been bitten by a spider. You can tell you may have been bitten by a spider if you see the following:

  • The bite has two puncture wounds
  • The bite doesn't hurt badly
  • The bite hurt, and the pain gets worse
  • The bite swells or reddens
  • The bite develops into a sore
  • There is no visible bite
  • You see or catch the spider that bit you

After some time passes, you may find yourself experiencing other symptoms. Common symptoms of a spider bite include:

  • Skin damage
  • Fever
  • Itching or rash
  • Pain around the bite location
  • Muscle pain
  • Purple or red blister
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache

Learn more about common symptoms of spider bites.

How should you treat a spider bite?

Spider bites can sometimes be treated at home, however, it's important to monitor symptoms and know what type of spider delivered the bite. If there is a chance it may be venomous, it's important to see a medical practitioner immediately. If you are confident you have been bitten by a nonvenomous spider, follow these methods to treat, as recommended by MedlinePlus, a division of the National Library of Medicine:

  • Apply an ice pack on the wound for 10 minutes at a time
  • Elevate the affected area to manage swelling
  • Take an antihistamine such as Benadryl to calm itching
  • Clean the location with water and soap to prevent infection
  • If blisters appear, apply antibiotic ointment to the affected region

If you have spider bite symptoms or if they don't go away, see a doctor. If you fear you've been attacked by one of the following species, seek medical help immediately:

  • Brown recluse
  • Black widow
  • Hobo spider
  • Brazilian wandering spider

According to the Mayo Clinic, many venomous spider bites heal within a week, but the brown recluse spider may leave scars and take longer to heal. They recommend the following path of treatment after seeing a medical professional:

  • Clean the area with soap and water and follow with a prescribed antibiotic ointment three times daily to prevent infection.
  • Apply a cold compress to the affected area 15 minutes per hour to reduce swelling and discomfort.
  • Elevate the area, if possible.
  • Use an over-the-counter pain reliever, if needed.
  • If itching occurs at the site of the bite, antihistamines (Benadryl, Zyrtec) can be taken to help to alleviate the irritation.
  • Stay alert for any signs of infection or if the bite turns into an open wound. You may need a follow-up trip to your doctor for antibiotics.
  • If you have pain or muscle spasms stemming from the spider bite, your doctor may prescribe pain medicine or muscle relaxers.
  • Your doctor will also advise you if you need a tetanus shot.

How to Avoid Spider Bites

Most spiders do not bite unless provoked. To help avoid getting bitten by a spider bite, the Mayo Clinic offers the following tips:

  • Learn to identify spiders: Develop an understanding of what some of the most dangerous spiders may look like and where they dwell.
  • Install proper screens and seal cracks: To keep spiders out of your home, install tightly fitted screens on doors and seal any cracks in your home where spiders can enter.
  • Use insect repellents: Insect repellents, such as DEET, can be helpful in preventing spider bites. It's critically important to follow all directions printed on the repellent's packaging before use.
  • Wear proper clothing when you may be in contact with spiders: While it may be more difficult to prevent a random spider bite while sitting in your living room, if you know you are entering an area where there may be spiders lurking about, wear clothing that can help to prevent bites and cover more skin. Wear long sleeves, a hat, tuck your pant legs into your socks, and wear gloves and footwear when cleaning areas such as the garage, attic, basement, and crawl spaces – areas where spiders thrive.
  • Keep debris away from your home's exterior. Spiders can hide in rock piles or lumber. Keep these a safe distance away from your home and do not keep firewood flush against the walls of your home.
  • Take care with furniture and accessories: Similarly, keep furniture such as beds and couches away from being flush against the wall. Keep bedspreads from dragging along the floor, giving spiders a tempting surface to crawl onto.

More About the Black Widow Spider

Black widows have a crimson hourglass form underneath their abdomen and are black and lustrous. Black widow spiders are orange and white when young, but as they grow older, they darken in coloring.

Black widow spiders prefer dry, dark, and protective environments, such as beneath rocks or decks, as well as hollow tree trunks and firewood heaps.

Male black widow spiders are not known to attack. However, females are known to bite in self-defense. Fever, high blood pressure, sweating, and nausea are hallmarks of a black widow assault. In most cases, the pain from a bite will heighten within 1-3 hours. As long as competent medical care is obtained promptly, fatalities are uncommon.

black widow spider

What To Do If You Find a Black Widow

If you find a black widow spider, you should kill it immediately to prevent a venomous bite. Use caution so you do not get bit in the process. If you suspect you may have a black widow infestation, call a pest control specialist who can help you to deal with it and make your home safer.

How to Treat a Black Widow Spider Bite

If you've been bitten by a black widow spider, it's important to seek immediate medical attention. Your doctor may encourage you to follow many of the steps outlined above. However, In the event you've been bitten by a black widow and are experiencing severe pain or worsening symptoms, your doctor may treat you intravenously with antivenom.

Antivenom should be used with caution as it can cause severe allergic reactions and should only be administered by a qualified medical professional. Once receiving antivenom, you will likely see your symptoms subside after 30 minutes after being injected.

More About the Brown Recluse Spider

Brown recluse spiders have a dark brown violin pattern on their backs and are medium- to dark brown. Brown recluse spiders are widely known for their reclusive habits, and they frequently reside outdoors in garbage and woodpiles. You can spot them in dark corners such as window moldings and baseboards, as well as beneath furniture and storage items.

The brown recluse spider bites in self-defense. A bite can cause agitation, fever, and difficulties sleeping. It may result in an open, ulcerating wound requiring medical attention in extreme cases, as the brown recluse's bite can render tissue necrotic. Male brown recluse spiders stray further from the nest than females, making them more prone to get into shoes or other articles of clothing.

brown widow spider

What To Do If You Find a Brown Recluse

Because the bite of a brown recluse spider is so dangerous and can potentially leave you with long-term damage, it is not advised to handle the problem on your own. Immediately seek out a pest control specialist to handle the problem.

How to Treat a Brown Recluse Spider Bite

If you have been bitten by a brown recluse spider, it is imperative that you seek medical attention immediately. If you were unsure whether you were bitten by a brown recluse or another type of spider, you should still have your bite looked at by a qualified medical professional.

The bite may initially appear as reddish skin or a blister where you've been bitten, accompanied by painful itching for two to eight hours afterwards. The most telltale sign of a brown recluse spider bite is that the blister turns into an open sore due to tissue death. This happens approximately one week after being bitten. If you had not received medical treatment before this, if you see scabs or open sores at the site of the bite, it's important you see your doctor immediately.

Other individuals have severe initial reactions to brown recluse spiders, such as developing anemia, loss of red blood cells, fever and chills, a rash, nausea, and joint pain.

If you've been bitten by a brown recluse spider, it's important to stay calm. Panicked movements can pump the venom faster and further throughout your bloodstream beyond the localized area of the bite. From there, ice the bite, keep it elevated, and try to confirm if you've been bitten by a brown recluse. Over-the-counter pain medications may be recommended or antibiotics prescribed if the bite is infected.

The University of Michigan Health Center advises not to put a tourniquet around the area of the bite as this can do more harm than good. In the event tissue turns necrotic following the bite, you'll need to have a medical professional remove dead skin. Depending on its severity, they may need to graft new skin to the affected area. Another option may be hyperbaric oxygen therapy to repair tissue damage.

What Will Keep Spiders Away?

Taking proper precautions to keep spiders out of your home begins with looking to the outside of your home first. Keep piles of wood or stones away from your home, since these are places that spiders can dwell. Additionally, seal up any cracks where spiders may be able to get in and be sure to outfit your doors and windows with screens that can prevent them from creeping inside.

How do I keep spiders out of my bedroom and bed?

No one wants to wake up to seeing a spider on their pillow – or worse – having been bitten by one. To keep spiders at bay and barred from your bedroom, be sure to keep some space between your bed and the wall. Do not push your bed flush against the wall. One of the main reasons why spiders bite is because they have no room to maneuver. Keeping your bed close to the wall can also put it in the path of a web, especially if it is in a corner or near a window.

You should also be sure to keep your bedding – such as bedspreads, comforters, duvets, and blankets – from trailing on the ground. Spiders crawling along the ground may have easy access to climb onto your bed, using them as a ladder. Instead, tuck your sheets and blankets in to avoid them dragging on the floor within reach of spiders.

Additionally, it's important to wash your sheets at least once per week. In the event a spider crawled into your bed, regular washing can lessen the chances of a spider having found their way into your bed.

It's also important to remove clutter from beneath your bed. Similar to how spiders enjoy the cozy confines of a pile of rocks or lumber outside your home, these critters also thrive in cluttered areas where there are plenty of places to hide and spin webs undisturbed. Making sure the area beneath your bed is free from clutter and not used as a storage area can help lessen the potential for spiders in your bedroom.

How to get rid of spiders in your house?

If you have spiders, a troublesome population, or a full-fledged spider infestation, spider management is necessary. A pest control professional is required at this point. If you simply wish to discover how to get rid of spiders in your home before it gets this far, here are several DIY methods to help before the problem escalates:

  • Clean and vacuum regularly: Cleaning your home is the first step in spider management, and it starts with you. Vacuuming should be done regularly and comprehensively. You can remove spiders, egg sacs, and spider webs by vacuuming your home. Don't forget to vacuum underneath your couch cushions and stairs!
  • Add screens to your windows and doors. Fit your windows with screens to keep flies out-they are the ideal prey for spiders.
  • Sticky glue traps: Use sticky glue traps to catch spiders around your home.
  • Reduce outdoor lighting: Bugs love bright lighting and bring along spiders. You can use sodium vapor lights to deter spider build-up.

How Terminix® Treats Spiders

Our comprehensive pest control service includes an interior and exterior examination and treatment. Terminix® pest control specialists can identify and treat for most spiders. If you suspect you may have black widows or brown recluse spiders, we also offer a premium treatment plan for these pests. If spiders return within 30 days of your first treatment, we'll return at no charge. Reach out to us to help take care of your spider problem today.