The Dangers of Itsy Bitsy Spiders
If you’re looking for dangerous spiders, Vermont is not the state for you.
While most spiders produce some type of venom, the types of spiders in Vermont are not harmful. Spider bites are not common, and most spiders will cause only minor symptoms, such as pain, swelling, redness and itching if they bite you.
Types of spiders
The range of the northern black widow—a spider with a potentially dangerous bite—does theoretically extend into southern Vermont, but sightings are exceptionally rare. The Northern New England Poison Center has no confirmed northern black widow bites in more than 15 years serving the state. And contrary to what you may hear, the brown recluse spider does not reside in Vermont.
Every once in a while, there will be a Vermont encounter with the more well-known southern or western black widow, with the classic red hourglass on its belly. These spiders are not native to Vermont, but occasionally will hitch a ride into the area on produce grown elsewhere, particularly grapes. While this is still rare, it’s a good idea to check your produce for pests and wash it thoroughly.
Spiders bite when…
Spiders generally only bite when they are feeling threatened. You can prevent most spider bites by taking steps not to disturb them. For example, if you have clothes or shoes that you wear infrequently, look them over or shake them out before putting them on. Spiders may hang out in piles of wood or other materials. So, wear gloves and long sleeves if you work with firewood.
If you a spider bites you, follow these steps:
- Wash the bite area with mild soap and water.
- Put a thin layer of antibiotic first aid cream over the area.
- Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to the area to reduce swelling.
- Elevate the area if possible.
It is unlikely you will be bitten by a dangerous spider in Vermont, but if you are concerned, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, visit www.nnepc.org to chat online or text POISON to 85511. If you can safely capture the spider or take a picture of it, we may be able to rule out the more dangerous spiders, but take care not to get bitten again.
If you have any questions about dangerous spiders, contact the poison center at any time.
Gayle Finkelstein is Vermont Poison Prevention Educator with the Northern New England Poison Center in Community Health Improvement at the University of Vermont Medical Center.