Brown recluse spiders are among the most well known of all arachnids, which is understandable considering the deadly reputation that the spiders have generated during the past several decades. The brown recluse group of spiders started to become well known in America during the late 1950s when the first medical reports describing this spider’s potentially deadly bite became available to the public. These early medical reports, as well as several subsequent reports, described how brown recluse bites can sometimes lead to necrotizing infections at the site of the bite wound. Although many Americans have heard of brown recluse spiders, very few are able to recognize them. A study in the Journal of Entomology clearly demonstrated that a vast majority of Americans are convinced that they know what brown recluse spiders look like, despite identifying the wrong spiders as brown recluses. For one thing, brown recluse spiders are only endemic within a handful of American states. Despite this fact, residents of 48 states sent the author of the study brown recluse specimens in order to prove that they can accurately identify the spiders within their home state. Consequently, the researcher received spider specimens that were not brown recluses, and many of the specimens did not even resemble the notorious spiders.
Considering the numerous studies that have been published on brown recluse spiders in America, researchers are certain that this spider’s distribution only lies within the southernmost states as well as a few midwestern states. Although the study’s author claimed that brown recluse spiders do not exist within states located in America’s northern, northeastern or northwestern territories, residents of all the states located within these regions attempted to prove him wrong by sending their own captured brown recluse specimens. Of course, the participants sent the wrong spiders, but this was a part of the study.
The researcher challenged Americans in each state to locate and submit brown recluse specimens that they had captured. The lead researcher did this in order to determine if any brown recluse species migrated to any new states. Based on the submissions, the answer to this question was “no.” The second question that the study’s lead researcher was attempting to answer was where the brown recluse is perceived to exist by the American public, and the answer to this question is “everywhere.” Despite the fear many americans have toward brown recluse spiders, it turns out that Americans are surprisingly ignorant of the brown recluse spiders’ distribution and appearance.
Do you think that you would be able to accurately identify a brown recluse species?