Any spider in Florida can bite, and most do, even daddy longlegs. Spider bites can cause painful swelling and itching.
If you’re having any kind of reaction to a spider bite, or note a raised bubble on your skin that is likely from a spider bite, seek medical attention in case it was a venomous bite.
Of Florida’s spiders, only two species (five types) of spiders have venomous bites: the brown recluse and the widow spiders (Southern black widow, Northern black widow, brown widow, and red widow).
Brown Recluse Spiders
The brown recluse is most troublesome, resulting in more bites per year than the others due to its tendency to crawl into loose clothing or sleeping bags. Keep that tent zipper zipped!
A brown recluse bite may bubble up into a hard blister. Its venom dissolves tissue, leading to death of tissue at the bite site and a nasty, scarring divot in the skin.
Black and brown widows are common all over Florida. Brown widows are the ones most likely found in and on your house, especially the garage.
Black widows tend to build hefty thick webs in woody places, especially woodpiles.
Black widows have either an hourglass red shape on their black body, or an array of red dots against shiny black. Brown widows have dots of black, white, red, and yellow against various shades of brown.
The red widow is an unusual species only found in Florida. We learned about it some years ago during a Florida Native Plant Society meeting, where the speaker had studied red widow spiders along the Yearling Trail on Pat’s Island in the Ocala National Forest.
The red widow is found in sand pine scrub habitats from the Ocala National Forest south through the Lake Wales Ridge and into Martin County. They generally build their web under a rolled-under scrub palmetto frond.
All widow spider bites are extremely venomous. They leave two “fang marks” in the skin. Muscle cramps start soon after, with nausea, sweating, and eventually shock.
Depending on your personal reaction to the bite, it can be deadly if not treated. If you feel any of these symptoms coming on and suspect a spider bite, call 911. Seek medical attention immediately.