Fortunately, Rick was treated in time so that he only had open sores about the size of an American quarter. After it was all over with (six months later) he ended up with large "pits" on his legs where the bites healed and the flesh had rotted away. Because the bite does not heal properly, people get serious Staphylococcus infections, if left untreated.
Most of what follows is anecdotal and I am not an arachnologist but
long before Google or Alta Vista started crawling the web, there were crawling Arachnida; eight legged creatures that many people fear. This fear is known as Arachnophobia.
Arachnids are not insects (which are six legged). Of all the bugs, they are the most ancient and the most primitive. The main way to identify arachnids are their eight legs and two body segments, though there are some that appear to have only six legs. Most other bugs you will see are six-legged and 3 visible body segments, otherwise known as insects. Other than spiders, other arachnids are scorpions, mites, ticks and false scorpions to name just a few. Have you ever had the "crabs" or scabies? Been bitten by blood sucking ticks or have Lyme Disease? Have you had a near death experience from a Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? All of these diseases are caused by arachnids.
Brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa)
The venom from a brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa, AKA fiddleback spider) is extremely toxic to humans and includes the following enzymes: a protease, an esterase, and a hyaluronidase, all three enzymes cause complete breakdown of human flesh; a necrotic ulcer. In other words, it rots your flesh and heals extremely slow. However, the venom is not fatal and rarely if ever causes death. Consider this though: What would happen to you if a snake injected this type of venom? Their venom when injected into their natural prey almost instantly liquefies the victim's insides so that the fiddleback can suck them out, rather like sucking a chocolate malt out through a straw. Yummy...
Fiddlebacks inhabit about 1/3 of the U.S. and more southern climates. There is a species that is slightly different that inhabits the Southwestern U.S. Where I live in West Texas, I have known a number of people that have been bit by the Southwestern version of these nasty little beasts and the bite has caused considerable problems. One man I know had recurring problems for several years. These vicious beasts are not aggressive and only bite if their primitive brains feel quite threatened. The best way to avoid these little shops of horror is to know their habitat.
Most fiddlebacks love dark, dry places like closets, garages and crawl spaces in attics. I have found them in my closets that I don't use much. Hint: if you need to go into one of these areas, place a bright light where you will be, for about 30-60 minutes. This should clear them into areas you will most likely will not intrude. For the extreme arachnophobe, completely cover your body with clothing and cover your face. I had a female friend rush into an old closet to find a stored blanket and she was bit on the face. She eventually had to have plastic surgery. I have never heard of Arachniphilia but just in case guys...don't shake it at a fiddleback, use your imagination instead.
Black Widows (Latrodectus mactans)
There is considerable lore about this orb spider and this is the time of year they are quite visible (late summer and early fall).
I have kept a number of spiders as pets in an aquarium. The most scary spiders are the most docile...tarantulas and wolf spiders. If you see these in the wild or your house, leave them alone. They will devour other pests in your house namely cockroaches. Both tarantulas and wolf spiders like human companionship. The reason, I am told, is because of our body heat.
Black Widows on the other hand scare me to death and are the most venomous spider in North America. They are an orb spider that many times will be outside spinning webs this time of the year. Being bit by one of these sweethearts (always a female) injects a neurotoxin into your skin that is 15 times more powerful than the bite of a prairie rattlesnake (also a neurotoxin) per volume. You will not feel the bite. Luckily for humans, it injects a minute amount of venom.
By the way, black widows rarely eat the males they mate with as is commonly thought.
Black Widow venom starts to act rather quickly. First, you begin to have abdominal pains, gastrointestinal pains, muscular pains and pain on the soles of your feet. Paralysis of your diaphragm can occur and your eyelids can swell up. If you let the bite go up to this point, you're going to feel rather fucked up. If you have heart or lung problems, you could die from either a heart attack or from suffocation because of paralysis of your diaphragm. Lovely, isn't it?
Safe insecticides are not effective against spiders. The best way to control them is to not create habitats for them in the first place and to be careful when you are around them outside in their habitat. Keep them out of your house by keeping it clean and being careful when you do spring cleaning and wear gloves.
The Arachno-Terrorists' Minions: Ticks
If certain spiders are the field generals, then ticks are their minions...by the bazillions. When I lived in the forests of the Pacific Northwest years ago, at least once a month the subject of ticks would come up. Strangely, most incidents of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever occur in South Carolina and Oklahoma.
Black Legged Tick, Deer Tick, American Dog Tick, Rocky Mountain Wood Tick...scary shit
If you go out in the woods much then you will run into ticks. Their ability to inflict disease is related to their one purpose; to suck your blood. You can get infested with ticks in a matter of seconds and feel them crawling about but not see them, unless they have stopped and have started engorging themselves with your blood. I have seen ticks so big from sucking on a host animal that they look like they would explode from the blood sucking orgy.
One time in Mexico, I made the mistake of taking a piss stop in the middle of a field of dead palmeto trees. Before I could zip up my pants, I felt this crawling itching feeling on my legs. When I got back in the car I realized what had happened. It wasn't until later that my girlfriend spent 2 hours picking them off one by one from my genital area. Luckily, I was not infected with a disease.
You don't get one tick bite, you get dozens and they feast on you like you were their last meal. Some sources say that you only get an infection if you pull them out by grabbing their bellies which have your blood in them. This injects any of the diseases they carry. I've tried many non-squeezing methods of getting them off of me and the only way is using tweezers and pulling them out by their little heads.
Scorpions and Whip Scorpions: I hate 'em, I love 'em
My favorite of all arachnids are scorpions and especially the vinegaroons or whip scorpions. Nothing scares people more than these two creatures. Vinegaroons are especially scary.
Scorpions are generally thought of as desert creatures; they're not. Scorpions like the warmer climates and are also distributed all over the earth. One year in Oklahoma I lived in a ranch house and when I moved in I noticed there were no cockroaches. Two nights later I found out why. The place was overrun with scorpions. At the time I was working in a greenhouse so I brought home from work a 1 quart fruit jar 3/4th full of formaldehyde. Each time I saw one scatter across the floor I grabbed it with a pair of 18 inch long forceps. By the end of the summer the fruit jar was stuffed full of scorpions and I now had a cockroach problem...nature's way.
Scorpion venom is also a neurotoxin. Not only that, but unlike other arachnida they can control how much venom they can inject. If they fully inject their victim with all their venom it takes several days for them to refill their venom sacs. Though not usually fatal, their sting is very painful. Most species of scorpions are NOT poisonous but this depends on what habitat you live in. In the U.S. very few people are killed by scorpion stings. This is due to the fact that most poisonous scorpions live in remote Southwestern U.S. deserts.
Of all the arachids, vinegaroons are indeed the most benign. They look like the beast from hell but the ones in North and Central America are harmless as they have no venom gland. They make good if not ugly pets. The beast looks as though it would rip you a new one but their only defense is a strong vinegar smell they squirt you with when startled or threatened.
The Return of the Monster King
Vinegaroons used to be real common where I live. I never saw many scorpions here and five years ago was the last time I had seen a vinegaroon. Early one morning in the middle of the night I was startled awake by thunder. I walked into the kitchen to make some coffee. I was very startled when I turned on the light and saw by the back door a huge vinegaroon who had come in from the rain. I picked him up and let him warm up on my arm before I turned him loose outside in the ivy.
I was thankful that the rain had brought them out, so I turned off the coffee and went back to bed...for dreams of vinegaroons, the king of arachnids.
Comments from the original diary entry.
Thanks to BottleRocket for this comment. It is priceless.