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Drought, heat bring spiders, bugs out
The venom from a brown recluse spider can cause skin irritations and lesions and, in rare cases, can be fatal.
August 8th, 2012
04:40 PM ET

Drought, heat bring spiders, bugs out

Record high temperatures and rapid expanding drought across the country are resulting in an increase in spiders and other bugs.

“All insects are cold-blooded, so in extreme heat they develop quicker, which results in more generations popping up now compared to previous summers,” said Jim Fredericks, an entomologist and wildlife ecology expert with the National Pest Management Association.

One spider to watch out for is arguably one of mother nature's most dangerous, the brown recluse.  The extreme heat is driving brown recluses to seek refuge inside homes.

Easily disguised as a common house spider, the venom from a brown recluse can cause irritation to the skin, lesions, and in rare cases, death.

“All spiders have a venomous bite, but only a few can be medically dangerous to humans, and the brown recluse is a top concern,” said Fredericks.

The brown recluse spider is smaller than you might imagine - about the size of a quarter.  It’s tan in color and has a dark spot in the shape of a violin on its body.

You aren’t likely to see them roaming around during the day - like their name suggests, they are reclusive. They typically hide in dark corners of your home, or in stored items like boxes and in closets.

“A common misconception is that spiders like to bite people,” said Fredericks. “But they actually don’t recognize people as a food source, and will typically only bite as a defense mechanism.”

A bite from a brown recluse will be painless at first. Within three to eight hours, the bite site will become swollen, red, and tender to the touch.  In 95% of cases, the irritation ends there and the bite will heal on its own without developing into a more serious irritation.

In some cases, however, the venom begins to break down the cells in the skin and progress into a necrotic lesion needing immediate medical attention. This process takes about two to three weeks.

“It is rare for a brown recluse to result in death, but it can occur in children or adults who are allergic to the spider’s venom,” said Fredericks. “It best to get medical attention right away if bitten, to make sure you aren’t allergic.”

Woman loses breast to spider bite

Brown recluse spiders are generally concentrated in the midwestern and south-central regions of the United States.

Reduce your risk of being bitten by wearing long gloves if sorting through dark spaces in your home or moving boxes and furniture. Experts also recommend setting out glue boards (which can be purchased at your local home improvement store) to catch the spiders before they have an opportunity to bite.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.