Black Widow

Iowans are frequently warned about the threats of mosquitos and ticks during the summertime, but another danger could be lurking in the woods, your yard or the basement.

Creighton University entomologist Theodore Burk says there are two poisonous spiders Iowans need to be familiar with, including the western black widow.

“What black widows produce is a neurotoxin so you can get a local reaction and skin death,” Burk says. “The severe complications are not that common but when they do occur, it’s a nerve poison. It’s much more dangerous to children because they’re smaller and the dose is correspondingly worse.”

Its bite can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, joint stiffness and headaches. Another dangerous spider that lives in Iowa is the brown recluse, which can grow to the size of a quarter and it’s very poisonous.

Brown Recluse

“The brown recluse has a necrotic poison that destroys the tissue,” Burk says. “You get a very ugly, raw, ulcerous area around the bite. It can be nasty and get infected with staphylococcus or something.”

Burk says these spiders like to hide in trees, gardens and dark secluded places.

“They both occur outside, in places like wood piles or under stones or in shrubs, but most people encounter them in their houses, their garages or their basements,” Burk says. “They’ve come inside and built their webs around something that’s been laying in your garage for a couple of years that you haven’t moved.”

Avoid spider bites by wearing gloves around wood piles and brush, sweep around boxes or other objects that haven’t been moved for a while in a basement or a garage.

If bitten, avoid scratching the area as that could cause an infection. Seek medical help if the bite feels hot, blisters, the skin becomes discolored or there is a rash.