I’m not scared of most animals. Some critters unnerve me though. Roaches are gross and I still jump when I see one, though I’ve been consciously trying to force myself to not freak out when I see one. I’ve never been scared of snakes, although I’ve never been around any (save for the zoo), so I don’t know how I’d react if I saw one slithering through the grass in the backyard. I’m also not afraid of spiders, but they are creepy (especially closeups of them)
If I lived at 84 Gillete Field Close in St. Louis, MO, that would be a whole ‘nother story: the residence has a HUGE infestation of spiders. Not just any old arachnid. It’s infested with brown recluse spiders (I have goosebumps just thinking about this):
The spider problem started in October 2007, shortly after Brian and Susan Trost bought the home at 84 Gillette Field Close, according to testimony at a civil trial. The Trosts had purchased the home, built in 1988, for $450,000.
Susan Trost testified she was walking through her new home, exploring it on her first day there, when she noticed a large, stringy web wrapped around one of the light fixtures.
It hadn’t been there on the walk-through date.
Neither had the webs in the bar area in the basement. In the kitchen, she tugged on a piece of loose wallpaper, and a spider skittered behind it.
She thought the home probably just needed a thorough cleaning, so she got to work.
In the following days, she saw spiders and their webs every day. They were in the mini blinds, the air registers, the pantry ceiling, the fireplace. Their exoskeletons were falling from the can lights. Once when she was showering, she dodged a spider as it fell from the ceiling and washed down the drain.
A month after living in the home, her 4-year-old son screamed frantically from the basement, and Trost saw a spider, about the size of a half dollar, inches from his foot.
Instead of smashing it, Trost trapped it in a plastic bag and looked it up on the Internet. It was a brown recluse.
Trost testified she contacted a pest control company that came in on a weekly basis, spraying the interior and exterior and setting down sticky traps.
Since brown recluse spiders often live behind walls, she hired someone to come in and remove drywall so the exterminator could spray behind it.
She hired another company to remove the insulation from the attic and put down a pesticide powder.
“After the attic treatment, it seemed to help for quite a while, although we were still capturing them,” she testifiedd. “It just was a decline; they weren’t gone.”
In 2008, the Trosts filed a claim with their insurance company, State Farm, and a civil lawsuit against the home’s previous owners, Tina and David Gault, for allegedly not disclosing the brown recluse and other problems with the home.
At a jury trial in St. Charles County in October 2011, Jamel Sandidge, a biology professor at the University of Kansas, described the brown recluse problem at the Trost home as “immense,” between 4,500 and 6,000 spiders.
My goosebumps have goosebumps right now. Thankfully none of the family members were bit.
Missouri is home to more than 300 kinds of spiders, but according to experts, only two are potentially harmful — the brown recluse and the black widow. Both can inflict bites that can cause severe pain and infection.
Deaths from black widow bites are extremely rare, and are even less likely from brown recluse bites.
But that doesn’t stop people from being fearful.
Arachnophobia, like other fears is irrational. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the fear. I don’t share it though (although, as I said, I think they’re creepy). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to see the wisdom in trying to overcome fear. When it comes to something like roaches, I had to consciously stop recoiling upon the sight of them before I got to the point I am now (which isn’t “awww, lookit the little cute roach. I want to hug it and pet it and call it George”, but I don’t jump back 16 feet any longer. Now it’s like 10 feet). I had to actually force myself to be rational and think about the actual harm that I was in. A skittering cockroach, for all that it is gross looking, doesn’t present any harm to a human. There may be a roach problem in the house, but that’s no reason to actually be scared of one. They skitter away from us as much as we do from them. Unless it’s crawling across your food and transmitting germs, there’s probably not much danger you’re in from a roach. Similarly, spiders don’t, by and large, pose much danger to humans.
“A lot of the fear is overdone,” said Matt Ormsby, naturalist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Sure, you need to respect the spider, but a brown recluse doesn’t have the bite pressure to make it through our skin, and they are not aggressive.”
The spider must be pressed against a person to be able to pierce the skin and get any venom in, he said.
Since brown recluses like to hide in places where humans don’t go frequently, like storage boxes kept in the basement, people can get bit if they put on clothes or shoes they’ve been storing.
“The best way to prevent getting bitten is to shake out your stuff and just frequent cleaning of the house,” Ormsby said.
Dr. Alok Sengupta, chair of emergency medicine at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, said the hospital treats spider bites every year, and people are always concerned about whether it came from a brown recluse.
Even if it did, Sengupta said the amount of venom injected is so small, people don’t usually have any complications. Severe reactions are rare.
But they include nausea, vomiting, fever and. even rarer, anemia, a drop in red blood cell count and muscle breakdown that can spread to renal failure.
So we’re not in a grave amount of danger from brown recluses in we employ a bit of caution and keep our surroundings clean. Even if we get bit, unless the reaction is severe, we don’t have much to worry about (there is an anti-venom). On average, 6.6 people die each year from venomous spider bites (that number includes all venomous spiders). By contrast, in the year 2012, roughly 33,561 people were killed in automobile accidents in the US, 28 Americans died from lightning strikes, and there were no deaths from commercial airline crashes. Taking a rational approach to arachnophobia, it seems our fear of spiders is massively misplaced.
That doesn’t change the fact that they’re creepy as hell, and a house with thousands of brown recluses is not the place I want to call home. I say nuke it from orbit.