The brown recluse is a fascinating spider very well adapted to dwelling in houses and other buildings. Because of this very quality and the ghastly reputation associated with the medical consequences of its bite, it has become infamous throughout North America. Although recluse spiders can cause serious skin injuries and, in very rare cases, death, the danger posed by this spider is often exaggerated as a result of arachnophobia and the misdiagnosis of non-spider-related conditions as brown recluse bites. These misdiagnoses often occur in areas of North America where the spider does not exist, making legitimate bites improbable. One of the greatest factors that keeps the myths alive is misidentification of common (and harmless) spiders as brown recluses. With The Brown Recluse Spider, Richard S. Vetter hopes to educate readers regarding the biology of the spider and medical aspects of its bites, to reduce the incidence of misdiagnoses, and to quell misplaced anxiety.
In The Brown Recluse Spider, Vetter covers topics such as taxonomy, identification, misidentification, life history characteristics and biology, medical aspects of envenomations, medical conditions misdiagnosed as brown recluse bites, other spider species of medical consideration (several of which have been wrongly implicated as threats to human health), and the psychology behind the entrenched reasons why people believe so deeply in the presence of the spider in the face of strong, contradictory information. Vetter also makes recommendations for control of the spider for households in areas where the spiders are found and describes other species of recluse spiders in North America. Although The Brown Recluse Spider was written for a general audience, it is also a valuable source of information for arachnologists and medical personnel.
1. Taxonomy 5
2. Identification 11
3. Misidentification 21
4. Life History and Biology 39
5. Distribution 71
6. Medical Aspects 91
7. Medical Misdiagnoses 113
8. Human Psychology and the Brown Recluse Spider 125
9. Bites and Alleged Bites by Other Spiders 139
10. Control Measures 153
References and Further Reading 167
"The Brown Recluse Spider is a concise summary of the current knowledge about an infamous spider, with clear relevance to the public perception of spiders in general. Richard S. Vetter has had years of experience conducting research on recluse spiders and educating the public as well as medical personnel. This book features new insights – interesting, amusing, and sometimes sad – drawn from his personal experiences with education efforts."
– Richard A. Bradley, The Ohio State University, author of Common Spiders of North America
"The Brown Recluse Spider is a much-needed book that brings to light recent research for both a professional and general audience. Its author, Rick Vetter, is the preeminent authority on all matters concerning the brown recluse and related spiders in North America."
– G. B. Edwards, Florida State Collection of Arthropods and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services