What it feels like to be bitten by a black widow spider, and my less exciting story

Nope, I am very happy to report that this is not my personal story. But it is one I dug up on Quora doing research about spiders, and like many of the best Quora answers, the delivery is as good as the information.

In researching I’ve come to appreciate Quora as a source for personal experiences. Like many places the internet has brought (Hello, Wikipedia) it may not be something you want to stake your life on (why yes, crowd sourced medical advice does sound like a good idea, thank you, please) but it’s hard to beat if you’re looking for the human perspective. Even if you’re researching a high-falutin space opera, your story won’t be in any way interesting if you don’t make it about very personal moments.

Space opera was not on my mind last night, outside of wishes for lasers or high powered miniature spider-hunting robots or the ability to communicate with arachnids thanks to my alien arachnid friends.

I had none of those things, but I did have a menacing spider. Just a spider, really, but few things take ‘mundane’ and turn it into ‘menacing’ as readily as appending ‘large’ before ‘spider.’

Sorry for all the quotes.

Like all sane people, I grew up with a healthy dose of irrational fear when it comes to spiders. The very definition of ‘fate worse than death’ can be expanded to ‘stung, paralyzed, wrapped in sticky webbing, having your insides liquified and then sucked out while you are still alive until you aren’t.’

My intrepid wife, Margaret, is even more sane than I, and claims to have full on arachnophobia. Despite this, we’ve had to become less sane, as we like to travel, and sanity and travel are, in fact, incompatible states. That terrible sentence of commas is just there to let you know that we’ve gotten more used to spiders. If you don’t live in Safehold, aka Alaska, poisonous spiders are just a fact of life. Given the time spent in Hawaii, aka SpiderTopia, I thought we had become very comfortable with gigantic eight legged death machines hanging out with us in close proximity. We had an intricate web in our apartment inhabited by an emerald lady of the night, if ladies of the night kill half the insects in your apartment. We gave her names, appreciated her fighting our proxy war and were happy to cheer her on in her slaughter.

That’s all because we knew that Hawaii didn’t really have any aggressive poisonous spiders. We knew what this spider was, so it was all cool. We were big, bad, brave adults.

Right up until we went to Uruguay, lived there for a few months in blissful ignorance, and, relaxing in bed one evening, spotted a shadow moving a way no shadow ought to move.

So, here’s the thing. Residents of Uruguay insist there are no poisonous spiders in Uruguay. The internet insists that there are very few. Just two, in fact: the Brazilian Wandering Spider and the Chilean Brown Recluse.

The teensy tinesy catch there is that those are two of the deadliest spider species in the world.

It was almost certainly a harmless variety, but it sure as shooting didn’t look harmless, and what’s more, Margaret being pregnant means that our paranoia centers are in overdrive. Cue a metric ton of internet research. Believing in the power of the future, we posted on Facebook and Twitter, thinking to harness social media to ID our new neighbor. Social media returned the following potential spider types:

Silent Midnight Death Spider
Dafuq Spider
Nope Spider
Kill it with fire

Thanks, social media. Doing what you do best, I guess.

These suggestions accompanied endless internet image searches that made me five times more acquainted with spider anatomy than I had ever intended. Lets not even mention the necrotic flesh photos, videos of spiders moving faster than light, and one truly hilarious video of a man spending half an hour swearing in an attempt to capture a Huntsman spider.

Here’s the thing. Like the man in that video, I had little desire to kill the spider. Despite being utterly terrifying, spiders get an unfairly bad rap; and the harmless varieties are, well, truly harmless. Why go out of your way to kill what doesn’t need to be killed? On the flip side, what I have for Caveman Father instincts were telling me to kill it so my child didn’t pull a Peter Parker in the womb.

I just didn’t see how – visualizing any attempts on the life of a spider on your ceiling logically extend to visualizing it falling on your face, or somewhere on the floor and darting into a nook and cranny, inducing permanent insomnia.

Finally, Glen with http://spiderzrule.com responded to an email. He seemed likely to be at least passingly acquainted with spiders, and assured me that it was harmless, and most likely a Fishing Spider. Margaret was satisfied by this and fell asleep, which speaks more to her bravery than to mine, because I stayed up to do a little more googling. And that is what lead me to the absolutely fascinating story linked at the beginning of this ramble.

All of this proved to be educational, and in the end, had a surprising side effect: I’m significantly less freaked out by poisonous spiders than I was before.

Lessons learned:

  1. Most spiders are very peaceful and reluctant to bite. Unless you’re squishing them (tangled in bedding or in shoes are the common examples) they will leave you alone, even in very close proximity.
  2. Even the ‘aggressive’ spider varieties aren’t going to be hunting you out. Not because you aren’t too delicious, but you’re just too large. Seriously, if you aren’t shoving your business into their business, they just want to be left alone. (see link one)
  3. Even ‘aggressive’ and ‘poisonous’ spiders rarely bite. Most spider bites are misdiagnosed and not spider bites at all. (see link one)
  4. Even if you have been bitten by a spider, it’s rarely fatal, and you generally have a good amount of time to react. Stay calm and seek help.
  5. If you stare at enough spider photos, they become a little less incredibly creepy. A little.
  6. Your friends are great resources for snappy commentary in the face of certain death.
  7. Glen at SpiderzRule is a hero, and is the reason we didn’t end up just torching our entire house, which isn’t even our house, so might have made our landlords crabby.
  8. Leaving spiders alive isn’t just a good idea because you don’t like killing things. They are very genuinely responsible for cleaning up much more problematic and dangerous insects, and killing spiders is similar to killing police officers to stop crime.

Again, awesome story: https://www.quora.com/What-does-it-feel-like-to-be-bitten-by-a-black-widow-spider

One thought on “What it feels like to be bitten by a black widow spider, and my less exciting story

  1. “so might have made our landlords crabby.” …and this indeed would have been a bad thing since crabs are also arachnids and hence the landlords would have transformed into something utterly terrifying had you torched the house.

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