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Experts warn of spike in Brown Recluse spiders

Pest control experts say it's peak season for the Brown Recluse spider, one of the most venomous pests in Texas.
The telltale brown fiddle shape is visible on the head of this Brown Recluse spider specimen.

SAN ANTONIO -- Pest control experts say it's peak season for one of the most venomous pests in Texas. The Brown Recluse spider lays eggs between April and October, making it the most common period for bites.

The Brown Recluse is one of two venomous spiders native to Southern Texas, along with the black widow. Its bite is painless, but its venom can cause necrosis, meaning it kills flesh and tissue in the body.

Most people heal without issue, but some get nasty open wounds or even heart and kidney problems.

"It can be very serious," said Dr. Adriana Segura, an emergency room doctor at University Hospital. "You could end up in a coma or even death."

There were 195 Brown Recluse bites in the state of Texas between January 2014 and April 2015. Pest control experts say 95 percent of all bites happen during mating season, between Spring and late Summer.

"The way that the reproduce, they don't leave their home. So once they lay those eggs, the babies stay where the parents were, so the population can grow exponentially," said Molly Keck, an Integrated Pest Management Specialist at the Texas A&M Extension Office.

The spider earns its name through its reclusive habits. It generally avoids areas frequented by people in favor of attics, storage areas, or dark nooks and crannies. But during the Spring they're more adventurous, and their young are more likely to appear around the home.

Experts say many people also wander into their habitats while doing Spring cleaning or digging into storage areas of their homes.

"It's always an accident, they're not going to come after you at night or anything like that," said Keck. "It's when you don't know that they're there, that's what makes them so difficult and so scary."

Keck said the best ways to avoid the Brown Recluse during mating season is to shake out your shoes or any clothing that hasn't been worn for a long period of time. She also said to wear protection like gloves and long sleeves when reaching into dark corners or crevices.

Keck said if you do get bitten and manage to catch the spider in the act, look for a brown fiddle shape on its head, a common indicator of a recluse spider. Kill or catch the spider and hold onto it, call poison control, and show them the spider so they can diagnose the issue.

If you see one lurking about, call pest control immediately because there are likely many more.

"They're one of the more uncommon ones you call a pest control guy about," said Keck. "But once you see one, it's like termites, you call them right away."