Spiders (Araneae)

Often confused as insects, spiders actually are not, they are arachnids. distinguishable by the fact that they have 8 legs, not 6 as insects do.  Spiders are extremely pervasive throughout the country and although spiders are widely feared, only a few species are dangerous to people. Most spiders will only bite humans in self-defense, and few produce worse effects than a mosquito bite or bee-sting. Most of those with medically serious bites, such as brown recluse spiders and black widow spiders, are shy and bite only when they feel threatened, although this can easily arise by accident. In general, spiders are far more beneficial to people than harmful. They prey on insects such as mosquitoes and flies and their venom is even being studied for possible pesticide and medical purposes.

Dangerous Spiders in Alabama

Although most spiders found within the state of Alabama are not dangerous and are more beneficial than harmful there are a couple of note that should be avoided and can potentially cause harmful effects from being bitten by them.

Brown Recluse Spiders



Brown Recluse Spiders or “fiddle back spiders” are extremely venomous and bites can cause painful lesions due to the venom destroying skin tissue and in severe cases can become fatal. They are usually light brown but color can range from light to dark brown and at times even grayish. They range in size from 14 in and 34 in and in a resting position will usually be found with their legs spread wide. They are often distinguishable by the violin or “fiddle” shape found on their backs, although for proper identification one needs to check their eyes. Most spiders have 8 eyes, while Brown Recluse Spiders only have 6.  Luckily, as their name suggests, Brown Recluse Spiders are reclusive. They are nocturnal and primarily spend the daytime hours hiding in dark quiet places where they feel safe and will be left alone. Brown Recluse Spiders are a hunting spider. They generally do not weave a web for the purposes of catching food and would rather track down and attack their food on foot. Most bites occur because the spiders tend to hide in clothing that has not been used in a while and when the article is pulled out and worn the spider becomes pressed against the skin and feels threatened. Their fangs are extremely small and can not pierce most clothing so direct skin contact is usually required for a bite to occur.  Brown Recluse Spiders are extremely shy and will go out of their way to avoid contact when possible. Most bites occur by accident and often go unnoticed because the bites cause little to no pain. If you suspect you may have been bitten by a Brown Recluse Spider it is recommended that you see a physician as soon as possible and if it can safely be done capture the spider and bring it with you to the doctor to help with proper identification.

Black Widow Spiders



Black Widow Spiders are easily identifiable by their ebony black bodies with red or orangish markings on the underside of their abdomen. The underside markings are frequently two dots but often the dots will come together forming the “hourglass” shape they are known for.  Black Widow Spiders are usually not a very mobile spider, preferring to build a web and wait in it for their food to become trapped. They build build irregular, funnel-like webs of sticky silk that does not seem to follow any kind of pattern. Black Widow Spiders are most commonly found outdoors in cool dark places and underneath structures, wood piles and rocks but may be inclined to come inside when weather conditions become too cold for them. Bites usually occur when a person reaches under something to pick it up and places their hand on the spider causing it to feel threatened. Despite common belief, Black Widow Spider bites are not usually fatal and in most cases will cause severe pain and illness rather than death. Young children, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems are more susceptible to bites causing more than illness and pain, along with those that may be allergic. If you feel that you may have been bitten by a Black Widow Spider you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.