Venomous brown recluse spider pops up in midwest

The brown recluse spider — venomous and usually found in the South — has been spotted several times in Michigan this spring.

The most recent sightings: inside a home in Perry and in a garage in Davison in Genesee County, said Howard Russell, entomologist with Michigan State University's Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences.

"That's significant, because they were found early in the spring in an unheated garage," he said of the Davison incident. That means the arachnids may have spent the winter here.

Michigan's winters are normally too harsh for the brown recluse to survive, but this past winter was mild. 

Brown recluse spiders are about the size of a quarter with their legs extended, Russell said. They're can be light to medium brown and have a body marking on their dorsal side that resembles a violin. They like to hide in dry, dark places and are not likely to bite unless they're disturbed.

"The spider itself is kind of shy," he said. "Normally, it is found in attics and other rooms that aren't used that much."

The presence of the brown recluse is cause for concern because it is one of two venomous spiders in the United States, the other being the black widow.

Most brown recluse bites will blister or itch. In rare cases, the venom causes the flesh around the bite to die, or necrotize. That can be life-threatening.

Russell said most brown recluse spiders that wind up in Michigan hitched a ride on items being brought here from their normal range. Finding one or two is not cause for alarm.

"Down South, where the spider is common, people can live with hundreds of these things in their homes," he said.

If you find a spider that you suspect is a brown recluse, Russell would like to know about it. Contact him by email at bugman@msu.edu.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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