Fiddleback spiders invade Vance's darkest depths

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lynne Neveu
  • Public Affairs
If you see this little spider climbing up your waterspout, clean it out with caution. Of the more than 30,000 species of known spiders, only a few are considered dangerous to humans, including the brown recluse.
"The intent is not to scare people, but to make them aware of the brown recluse," said Richard Johndrow, base entomologist, who has more than 30 years experience in pest control.
At maturity, the spider is about the size of a half-dollar and ranges in color from yellowish or light tan to dark brown. It is often called a 'fiddleback' due to its characteristic dark brown violin marking located on the head and thorax region. At the base of the violin marking, six eyes are situated in three pairs arranged in a semi-circle pattern, another distinguishing feature since most spiders have eight eyes.
"The eyes of the brown recluse are iridescent and easily seen when a flashlight is shined from above," said Mr. Johndrow. A flashlight is often the best tool to use when seeking out the reclusive pests.
The fiddleback's natural habitat is outdoors and can be found in debris, bark, leaves, stones, utility boxes, woodpiles and vehicles, but has also adapted well to indoor habitats, said Mark Buthman, DynCorp civil engineer environmetal coordinator.
The fiddleback searches for food such as cockroaches, silverfish, crickets or other soft-bodied species, said Mr. Johndrow. He noted that silverfish tend to feed off of the glue used to hold cardboard boxes together, which provides both a prime habitat and plentiful food source at close range. But, the brown recluse can survive up to six months without food and water, according to the University of Arkansas Entomology Department Web site.
All brown recluses are capable of injecting venom that may result in a serious skin lesion or systemic reaction, according to base entomologists. Since the brown recluse is generally not aggressive, the bite is usually not felt. Pain at the site normally occurs from six to eight hours after the bite, making accurate an determination of the culprit difficult.
A typical bite area may resemble a pimple or blister formation six to 12 hours following the initial bite. Mild to severe pain accompanied by swelling may occur during this interval. The surrounding tissue begins to darken, is irregular in shape with sharply raised edges resulting in a sunken area that may be several centimeters in diameter. But not all brown recluse bites will result in a skin lesion or systemic reaction. Most people are bitten on the hands, arms or feet.
"Individuals with a suspected brown recluse bite should contact a physician immediately," said Capt. Melissa Laughery, 71st Medical Group adult acute care nurse practitioner. Vance members may contact the clinic at 7416.
The most effective means of preventing a bite is proper management using non-chemical and chemical means, Mr. Johndrow said. Spiders are predators and require prey to survive. They frequently stray into buildings or may be accidentally introduced on firewood, laundry hung out to dry and on flowers. A thorough visual inspection of the building, including the perimeter and inside must be done to accurately identify the pest. Night inspections may be required due to the nocturnal habits of many spiders.
"Habitat modification is the most effective means of controlling the recluse," Mr. Johndrow said.
The brown recluse has a preference, indoors or outside, for seldom disturbed areas. Outdoors, removal of cover such as debris, stones, brick, concrete blocks, loose bark, wood or lumber piles and other materials will help to reduce the spiders by disturbing their natural habitat.
Indoors, good sanitation and housekeeping practices are vital for the success of a pest management program, Mr. Johndrow said. Eliminate clutter in closets, attics, storage areas and outbuildings and practice regular trash removal. Discard old boxes, clothing and other seldom or unused items. Dust and vacuum frequently around windows, corners of rooms, shelves, under furniture, behind mirrors and pictures. Take precautions when removing items from storage and wear gloves and shake out shoes, clothing, sleeping bags and other items before using them.
Spiders are susceptible to most modern insecticides, when applied appropriately. According to Mr. Johndrow, for outdoor use, look for the active ingredient permethrin; for indoor use, cyfluthrin is recommended. He emphasizes the importance of reading labels carefully and wearing appropriate protection when applying the insecticides, including gloves and proper clothing.
The brown recluse is extremely difficult to control, Mr. Johndrow said. Elimination may take six months to one year. The most effective pest management program for fiddlebacks requires careful inspection of the spider's habitat and integration of the appropriate nonchemical and chemical measures.
If you suspect a brown recluse problem or have concerns regarding pest control, contact entomology at 6061.