That’s Probably Not a Spider Bite

That’s Probably Not a Spider Bite


[INTRO ♪] Let’s say you wake up one morning and you have a big, swollen, oozing thing on your arm or leg. Sounds horrible, I know, but bear with me. Your friend says it’s a spider bite. Dr. Google says a spider bite. And then your actual doctor also says it’s a spider bite. So cased closed, then—it’s a spider bite,
right? Well, maybe not. Dare I say probably not, because the truth is, spiders don’t go out of their way to bite people— and their venoms don’t usually cause large, open wounds. First off, if you were bitten, you’d probably
see the spider that bit you. Spiders might seem creepy, but they don’t
engage in stealth attacks against people. They really have no desire to bite a person that isn’t threatening them in some way. See, they spend a lot of energy producing their venom, which they need for hunting and to protect themselves. So they’re not going to waste it by attacking some gigantic creature they clearly cannot eat. On rare occasions, spiders will venture onto mattresses, so it’s possible to roll over one while sleeping— which is pretty much the only time you wouldn’t know that a spider was involved. But even if you did manage to scare a spider into biting you, most spider venoms are pretty harmless to humans. Some spider venoms can cause pain or itchy bumps, but only about 25 species are known to cause illness in humans. And the type of illness depends on the spider. Widow spiders, for example—a group which includes North America’s black widows and the Australian redback spider—have potent neurotoxins in their venoms. That’s why the bite of a widow spider can cause numbness, agitation, and painful muscle contractions. But it doesn’t cause necrosis, or the death
of living tissue—so no open wounds. And that’s an important distinction because
only certain spiders can cause that. Most well-known are the recluse spiders, which are common in the southern United States and South America but can be found in other parts of the world. The closely-related six-eyed spiders, which live in parts of Southern Africa, Central America, and South America, can also cause necrosis. What these spiders have in common is that their venom contains the toxin sphingomyelinase D which attacks cell membranes, killing cells. As cells die, a blackened lesion can form. But it’s important to note that this doesn’t
always happen. Serious tissue death is thought to occur in less than 10 percent of cases. Most of the time, people only experience minor symptoms like redness and swelling. And that’s likely because so little venom
is injected with each bite. Still, somehow, that small percentage of bad cases has lead to some serious paranoia about recluse spiders. Some people seem to think every spider they see is a brown recluse, the most notorious member of the group, even though that’s physically impossible. Brown recluse spiders are endemic to the southern United States—which means they’re naturally found nowhere else on Earth. So like for me here in Montana, or for anyone who’s not in the southern United States? We don’t have them. And even if you do live in a place that has brown recluses, it might comfort you to know that they’re called “recluses” for a reason. They’re less aggressive than other spiders, and pretty much only bite when they’re trapped. That doesn’t stop “brown recluse bite” from being a frequent diagnosis, even in places where they don’t live. And that’s probably because the death of skin tissue happens for all sorts of reasons, so it can be difficult to figure out exactly what caused it. If a doctor can’t find the cause of a wound, they might be tempted to call it a spider bite because patients like to have a diagnosis. And if their patient has already self-diagnosed something as a spider bite, they might see no reason to disagree. But that’s a potentially deadly mistake. In all, there are about 40 different medical
conditions that have been misdiagnosed as recluse bites, including herpes, Lyme disease, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, and even skin cancer. And if a person doesn’t get swift, appropriate treatment for some of those things, they can become life-threatening. Fortunately, there is a convenient mnemonic device that can tell you and your doctor whether your wound is likely a recluse bite: you just have to look for signs it’s NOT a RECLUSE. If there are Numerous lesions, if the Occurrence was in an area that doesn’t have recluse spiders, or if the Timing was between November and March, when the spiders aren’t active, it’s unlikely to be a recluse. Recluse bites also don’t have Red centers, they’re not Elevated, and they’re not Chronic— that is, they don’t persist for more than three months. They’re also not Large—typically, less
than 10 centimeters wide. And finally, recluse bites don’t Ulcerate early, meaning they don’t crust over within the first week; they don’t Swell; and they’re not Exudative—they don’t leak pus or other fluids. Though, as I noted earlier, a doctor probably can figure out if a bite was from a spider or not by simply asking if the person saw a spider bite them. So if you do have a suspicious skin lesion,
don’t automatically blame a spider for it. Most spiders can’t cause anything more than a small, annoying bump, and those that can aren’t found everywhere. So odds are you’re blaming an innocent arachnid. And speaking of innocent arachnids: we also make a podcast here at SciShow, and spiders love podcasts. It’s a scientific fact! Or is it? Every week on our lightly competitive podcast SciShow Tangents, we have a segment called Truth or Fail where one of presents three “science facts,” and only one of them is real and the rest of us on the podcast have to try to figure out which one it is. We also write and recite epic science poems and end every episode with a fact about butts. In other words, it’s quite a bit of fun,
and it’s quite a bit of science. So if you like those things, give it a listen! You can find it on the podcast platform of
your choice by searching for SciShow Tangents. And our most recent episode was all about spiders, which is why I’m talking about it right now. [OUTRO ♪]

100 thoughts on “That’s Probably Not a Spider Bite

  1. Australia has the white tip spider that causes nasty necrosis, I fear this said spider more than the elderly behind the wheel !

  2. Brown reclusive spiders have been found north as far as Pennsylvania..better check your facts again

    Also a side note they're in the wild..not in your local walmart because they hopped a ride from the warehouse..lost my interest scishow..this host is awful on top of the misleading video

  3. These are the videos that really show how living in different parts of the world makes a difference in thinking. Here in Hungary nobody would ever suspect a spider to have caused a swelling, lesion or wound.

  4. I have gotten bitten a coupe times in my garden. Only one turned into something that needed significant attention, but that wasn't even a spider.

    That said, the Brown Recluse range has grown in recent years and while the winters are too cold here, there have been positive confirmations in southern PA and western Virginia, thought to be spiders that have ridden in on vehicles or shipping crates and can survive here just fine until winter.

    The insect to be most wary of in these areas is the Wheel Bug. It is an assassin bug that has seen a spike in population since it is one of the few ambush predators that will target stink bugs. Their eggs are laid on wood or other flat, porous surfaces in the shape of a hexagon. Their nymphs are small and black with a bright red abdomen. The adults are between 1-1.5 inches and have an arch or spikes behind the head (that looks like a piece of wagon wheel). The bite from the Nymphs is annoying and will itch for a few days. The bite from an adult is very painful and will cause a burning, itching welt that can last for weeks. In my experience, the burning will last for just an hour or two but the itching will drive you absolutely mental and without wrapping it or VERY strong willpower and attention to catching yourself, you are likely to scratch and rub yourself raw by the end of the second day.

  5. Well I live in the Southern United States in the middle of the purple area on the map, was bitten in bed in my sleep, and was diagnosed with a brown recluse bite by my doctor so I don't know man. It started as a very small bite with two small holes a couple millimeters apart and rotted a giant, agonizing gun shot sized hole in my hip over the course of a month and took several more months to heal, along with a fever and muscle weakness for days, and the scar is still pretty gruesome five years later. Overall I wouldn't recommend.

  6. Am I the only one the feels like they grew up surrounded by anti spider cult members who constantly fed me blatantly untrue anti spider propaganda to scare me?

  7. I live on a farm in the Southern United States. We used to keep pigs, but all we have any more is chickens. When I was a boy, I was always the curious type, flippin' over rocks and watchin' the ants go about their business. I took to watching the spiders after dark, watchin' 'em catch lil ol' bugs in their web. My parents always just smashed bugs without a second thought, but I took a liking to them. I would handle the spiders, let 'em crawl all over my hands and arms, and I never once got bit. Saved more than a few brown recluse from my parents over the years. I'd get mad and cry whenever they killed bugs in front of me, so eventually they relented and just let me take 'em outside.
    There ain't nothin' those lil spiders wanna do to hurt you. If anything, they're scared of us.

  8. As for necrosis spider bites we have a spider here where I live called a yellow sac which in rare occasions causes necrosis but you'd notice if you were bitten by one they aren't plesent and they DONT like to live in your house

  9. Well i had a spider bite on my arm and it did not puss or bleed but it did leave a small hole ir indent. I say it was a spider bite because at the time i did not have any screens on my window and it was summer so the window had to stay open. That aloud flies to enter my room and i hate flies so i allowed spiders to live in my room and man did they multiply but they did there job well i had no flies so long as the spiders were around. So i say it was worth it.

  10. Also Brown recluse spiders do get seen in the Pacific Northwest, though that's probably because of travelers, ive seen some huge spiders here, once i saw one that was a few inches or so across. thing must have been moulting, looked like it could take down a damn house cat

  11. So the brown recluse spider is the American version of the violinist spider in Mexico, everyone is freaked out by that spider here, I know them, they live in holes and the webs are visible cones, totally noticeable spider that won't jump or go from the roof to land over you making a web thread (like a black widow, they can totally come from the roof to your face at night), nothing to worry about.

  12. I've read an article from a doctor specializing in spiders that there is a very good rule of thumb for diagnosing Brown Recluse spider bites: "if you think it's a Brown Recluse bite, it isn't a Brown Recluse bite".

    Apparently you have to really goad them to actually bite, if you can even find the thing in the first place.

    Black Widows are another matter, and I've found that ant-killing sprays are quite good at incapacitating them, but won't finish them off. And their bites are nasty.

  13. My aunt was bitten by a brown recluse spider near bedtime and she woke up at about 3 am with horrible pain. In the end of it all she lost a couple of cubic inches of flesh on her left thigh.

  14. I feel like the title should have been, ‘that’s probably not a recluse bite’. No information was given about alternates to what appears to be normal spider bites, which I thought this video was about.

  15. Shoot they come out looking for something to eat at night and we always see them out in the middle of our rooms we are in, lights on even.. im in OK. our house used to have a lot of brown recluse until we treated the floors and all base boards with bed bug powder, flea powders kill them too.

  16. In the UK the press has managed to drum up a ridiculous fear of False Widow spiders.
    Multiple schools have closed because of "infestations" of "False Widows".
    Problematically, they were not infested and they were (ostensibly always) not False Widows.
    They're just common spiders that have a slight physical resemblance to False Widows, but share none of their other traits.
    They're were photos in lots of newspapers of "dangerous" spiders on elaborate spider webs…False Widows are not skilled orb weaver spiders, their webs are messy and random.

    …and they're just not a lot more dangerous than bees.

  17. The only reason I don't listen to your podcast is because you end every episode with a fact about butts. I do not care about butts, I don't want to hear facts about them. Otherwise I'd totally listen to your podcast.

  18. And I just so happen to be in the part of the world where the brown recluse spiders live

    Time to go live in Antartica

  19. Thank you! I keep trying to explain this to people. Where I live we only have black widows and our government website mentions brown recluses and they're both reclusive! I play with spiders I find to take back outside all of the time and never get bitten. At one job I found probably five spiders a day between going to work or after getting there.

  20. Last summer, I thought I had a really itchy bug bite on my foot. My mom said it was a spider bite. I woke up the next morning with more. It was Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Definitely not a spider bite!

  21. I have a couple quarter size scars from spider bites. I slept in my basement and the fang marks were visible the next morning. I never bothered spiders before that but now I massacre every one on sight.

  22. You named two species of spider out of hundreds just in the us, wolf, banana and hobo spider come to mind just of the top of my head. Plus different possible reaction to venom between 100’s of spiders and millions of ppl. So I don’t think it’s that far fetched to say a random bump is from a spider.

  23. person completely missing the fact that those lil dinky “harmless” spiders only stay that way if you arent allergic to them >.> consider how many ppl are allergic to bee/wasp venom, now think how much less likely you are to be bitten by a rando spiderer of a give species compared to stung by fairly common species of bees/wasps. surprise you reacted badly to this ususally harmless venom cuz your immune system is trash and you live in an area covered with spiders with bad PR teams shrug yeah spiders don't seek you out to attack you, but if you live in a rural area theres prolly spiders in your stuff at least part of the time. too lazy to put your pants in the hamper? spider. havent worn those boots since last fall? spider. have a lot of clutter on that windowsill where the screen doesnt fit quite right? spider. florida means your life is covered in an assortment of comparatively harmless but still inconveniant spiders. especially when you have angered the black widow gods by killing one instead of putting it outside, so the whole spider mafia targets your family.

  24. TarantulaKat did a whole video about how not dangerous recluse spiders are.

    If a woman that keeps giantass Old World spiders in her bedroom tells you that a certain spider is chill then lists sources, you believe her.

  25. I wouldn't trust doctor Tyrone's diagnosis.

    C'mon, if you wanna be progressive and race bait at least find a black guy that looks like a doctor and not like a thug

  26. I did get bit by a spider. It was while I was asleep. There was a quarter sized spot of normal skin with tiny puncture wounds & the area around that was red, swollen, & so itchy. Nothing major, just scary. Got some antihistamines from the doc & I was fine.

  27. On a 3rd grade trip to the jungle, I woke up in my tent with what looked like either a spider, snake or bat bite. I didn't tell my teacher because I didn't want to go to the hospital, and luckily I wasn't poisoned. But I wonder which one it was!

  28. Omg it's pronounced "recloose" with the emphasis on the second syllable. I wasn't gonna say anything but you did it like 200 times.

  29. Brown recluse are in the Chicago area, outside the area of your map, in my basement to be precise until I did several sprayings. I saw one stuck on sticky traps. By the way, they ran up my pants legs while I was trying to clean the basement.

  30. I work at a wound center and so many patients want to claim that their abscess is a spider bite when it is an infection – often staph. People don't want to admit they have staph, a spider bite just sounds better. So unless they saw the spider that bite them not likely a spider bite.

  31. Got bite by something in my sleep on my knee a few years ago and ended up having a pretty nasty allergic reaction. Before the reaction got too bad, I just thought it was a mosquito bite, but then it started spreading. The redness and swelling went a little less than halfway up my thigh. Doctor said some kind of spider, but just assume allergy to bug bites in general

  32. The desert recluse (Loxosceles deserta) is related to the brown recluse, but, as it’s name suggests, is native to the southwestern US (namely, the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts) and not the southeastern. So if you live in southeastern California (San Bernardino, Riverside, and/or Imperial Counties — anywhere in the Inland Empire), western Arizona, or in Vegas, then might want to be on the lookout for it.

    That species, however, is also called a recluse for a reason — it lives in holes under the hot sand and only dwells near native vegetation, avoiding lawns and avoiding urban habitats. Unless your entire garden is loaded with nothing but cacti, succulents, and prickly scrub, the chances of actually finding one on your property are indeed slim.

  33. How many people come up with seeping, open wounds mysteriously?! The only things I’ve seen people call spider bites look more or less like mosquito bites, but hurt instead of itch. Which sounds about like what you said.

  34. Okay so when I wake up with a little swollen bump (dime sized) with two tiny punctures in the middle of it what am I supposed to think it is?
    Like it's obviously not actually dangerous but they still show up every other year or so and I've been glaring at the spiders but should I think it's something else or…?

  35. Don't forget all of the northwest suburbs of Chicago… I've had a couple friends get bit by these guys and they waited it out and had to have that flesh removed leaving a twisted nasty scar for the rest of their lives. And I myself have no fear of spiders

  36. 'Most spiders can't hurt you (so don't worry about it)' yeah except when you're Australian like me and most of the spiders you see can hurt or even kill you.

  37. I had teach in college and a spider caused necrosis luckily she cleaned it enough that antivenom still worked and i like in northwest explain that

  38. By that map, brown recluses don't live in Florida, but I assure you, I live in Florida and I've been bitten by one, we had to have our house fumigated, after all was said and done, we found 4 dead brown recluses, they looked identical to pictures of brown recluses, they even had the fiddle shape on them. My father, mother, and I have all had brown recluse bites, the doctors told us ' it's not a brown recluse bite, they don't live in Florida ' well luckily with a mix of catching the bites early, taking antibiotics to control the infection, cleaning the wound regularly, keeping ice on it constantly, we all survived. I've got the scar on my ass to prove I had a pretty bad wound. So, don't let them tell you that they don't live in Florida. If you're wondering where I live/got bit, near Tampa

  39. Me: tries to find out what kind of spider is in my house because I want to learn about them(and it just so happens to be brown)

    Google: iS It a BrOwN ReCLuSe???

  40. I once took a nap on the couch when a jumping spider was on the ceiling above my head. I didn't realize I fell asleep, so it felt like I blinked and the spider was gone, and one of my eye lids was so swollen I couldn't open my eye. I always thought it was a spider bite because something similar happened when I was a kid, but with my foot and not my eye, and my parents called it a spider bite too. Makes me wonder if they really were bites at all.

  41. I've heard a lot of people (here in Ontario) say they must have been bitten by a spider (and probably a recluse because that's a spider that bites…) because they see 2 red spots.

  42. Sorry to inform you, but there ARE brown recluse spiders here in Northwest Montana. Period. Learn your subject before you make a video… I can't trust any of your stuff now because of this lie.

  43. got two big, swollen spider bites on my leg – found the spider tangled in my blankets. It definitely was a spider bite.

  44. I have 2 hobo spider scars and my ex has one by we got bit the same night, it forms a pit in your skin less than a dimes width but if not taken care of will slowly spread. Not any pain really just nasty looking

  45. Did anyone actually stop to think critically when this video was made? It pretty much self-debunks…

    Won't "attack" — but you scare them into biting in your sleep — which is when these bites seem to occur!!

    Venom not dangerous — holy strawman argument batman! That's not the claim or concern!!
    Can cause pain, small itchy bumps, redness swelling — exactly what's observed and declared spider bites!!

    Brown recluse — "but some people say…" yet another strawman argument! Not the only spider that can bite!

  46. I heard that spiders were responsible for the 2008 Housing Bubble AND the global helium shortage. Eight-legged bastards.

  47. The brown recluse spider is actually found in almost every country in the world this has happened as a result of mass shipping

  48. I raise trantulas they dont scare me but i hate spiders ever since one bit my husband . it ate a hole in the side of his head. The doctor said he was lucky not to have been bitten in a fleshy area because it would have just kept going. We think it was a hobo but were still not sure. I flush spiders now

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