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Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Climate change could have dangerous spider crawling northward

KU gradate student Erin Saupe talks about her research on brown recluse spiders. Saupe, who is a geology and Biodiversity Institute student, is using computer models to determine how climate change could influence where brown recluse spiders will live in the coming decades.

March 30, 2011

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This brown recluse spider is among the many that have come to KU graduate student Erin Saupe. The geology and Biodiversity Institute student researched how climate change will affect the habitat of brown recluse spiders.

This brown recluse spider is among the many that have come to KU graduate student Erin Saupe. The geology and Biodiversity Institute student researched how climate change will affect the habitat of brown recluse spiders.

Ever since Erin Saupe, a KU graduate research assistant, asked colleagues  to bring her brown recluse spiders from their homes, she's had a steady supply of them. They are common to the area. Saupe had a couple of the spiders on her desk in glass jars.

Ever since Erin Saupe, a KU graduate research assistant, asked colleagues to bring her brown recluse spiders from their homes, she's had a steady supply of them. They are common to the area. Saupe had a couple of the spiders on her desk in glass jars.

Erin Saupe, a KU graduate research assistant, photographed this brown recluse spider in her lab (don't worry it's frozen). For a size comparison, these spiders would sit within the circumference of a quarter coin, with the ends of the legs reaching a little beyond the quarter.

Erin Saupe, a KU graduate research assistant, photographed this brown recluse spider in her lab (don't worry it's frozen). For a size comparison, these spiders would sit within the circumference of a quarter coin, with the ends of the legs reaching a little beyond the quarter.

As temperatures creep northward over the next couple decades, so will the poisonous brown recluse spider.

That is the prediction of one Kansas University graduate student.

Erin Saupe, a geology and Biodiversity Institute student, has spent the past year and half studying how climate change will impact the habitat of brown recluse spiders.

The spiders are of particular concern because their bites can kill tissue (known as necrosis) leaving behind deep sores, scarring and in severe instances a loss of a limb.

A common find in old Lawrence homes, these spiders like to hide in dark places like basements and boxes and frequently crawl into clothes that have been left lying on the floor or between bed sheets.

“It is a very dangerous species if you are bitten,” Saupe said.

As of now, brown recluse spiders are primarily found from Iowa south to Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, and in Kansas east to Kentucky.

It’s rare to find brown recluse spiders outside of that region, Saupe said. Yet some doctors misdiagnose spider bites in areas where they aren’t known to live. When they do, Saupe said they could be overlooking other important illnesses, such as cancer, fungal infections or lymphoma.

Establishing the distribution of brown recluse spiders and how that could change as the climate warms is important, Saupe said.

“It can be helpful in terms of the medical community to say ‘OK, I see that this looks like a brown recluse bite, but based on where I am and based on the history of this patient, it probably is not. Maybe we should look for other reasons,’” Saupe said.

Brown recluse spiders thrive in areas that are hot and wet. The climate in the West is too dry, Florida is too hot, and the Great Lakes region too cold.

But that could change.

Using computerized models, Saupe looked at different climate change scenarios for the years 2020, 2050 and 2080. Under those models, brown recluse spiders will migrate northeast into parts of South Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Along with being a tool in helping those in the medical field diagnose spider bites, Saupe said the research is part of a body of work looking at the effects of climate change.

“This could be a wake-up call because this species is so in the public eye and people care about this,” Saupe said.

Saupe’s research was published in Friday’s edition of the journal PLoS ONE.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

I hear willful ignorance provides 100% protection from death.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 9 months ago

bozo, bozo, bozo, we are all going to die. Most of us won't die from the bite of brown recluse spiders. Don't you have a revolution to forment somewhere?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

"we are all going to die."

Wow, what a news flash. I did not know that.

Now you've got me all fatalistic. Since I got nothing to lose, I might just go rob a bank, or become a Republican, or something else equally rash and stupid.

bad_dog 3 years, 9 months ago

Next thing you know snap will tell us we have to pay taxes, too. Sheesh...

Flap Doodle 3 years, 9 months ago

If I do, bozo will be vexed. That's reason enough right there.

somedude20 3 years, 9 months ago

yunz guys is dums! those litter fellers sure makes for goooooooood eatin. just dip em in some katsup and some rooster sauce and yum yum. butter dan kissin yur cuzin

Shane Garrett 3 years, 9 months ago

I looked at some climate change models also. I found them to be very pretty. Especially the ones in sports illustraed swim suit edition and some found in maxim mag. Yep, climate change is good for models.

Kirk Larson 3 years, 9 months ago

Actually there were 28 US fatalities from Africanized bees as of 10/10. More in Mexico and Central America. Not something to lose sleep over, but not harmless either.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, if the killer bee thing had been as bad as predicted, everybody south of the Red River would be dead by now.

Centerville 3 years, 9 months ago

Are these some of those fire-sale 'hide the decline' models or is this serious research?

somedude20 3 years, 9 months ago

They say that hedge apples ( I knew em as monkey balls growing up) will keep spiders and Republicans, um, I mean, bugs away in your house. They sell them http://hedgeapple.com/

grandnanny 3 years, 9 months ago

I can't believe they actually sell hedge apples - I pick up several hundred every fall and have never tried to sell them. Just put them in trash cans and put out for pick-up on Mondays. Guess next year I should try to augment my income by selling them.

Mari Aubuchon 3 years, 9 months ago

I will have to give that a try next fall. Now, to find an Osage Orange....

Kirk Larson 3 years, 9 months ago

Hopefully the armadillos will eat them.

Liberty275 3 years, 9 months ago

On the bright side, Globalwaming/climatechange/oceanradiators will further protect us from polar bears.

booyalab 3 years, 9 months ago

What do spiders have to do with geology?

booyalab 3 years, 9 months ago

Maybe "biodiversity" is the common link?

BioDiversity Institute: Where geology and spiders go hand in hand

average 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm betting with the Biodiversity link, her study is largely in paleontology which (halfway, anyway) in the geology department at KU.

Celeste Plitz 3 years, 9 months ago

I know a guy that lost his foot due to a brown recluse bite-this was in Mesa, Az, so I don't know why they would say the brown recluse isn't in the West. They are. Of course the idiot didn't go to the doctor when his foot started getting infected, that may have been a factor in why he lost the whole foot.

riverdrifter 3 years, 9 months ago

Recluses are vile. Spray them, gas'em, smash them. Whatever it takes. I hates'em.

Celeste Plitz 3 years, 9 months ago

Original Bob-yep. Those bites are nasty. I bet your grandfather suffered quite a bit before it healed. Until I saw the guy that lost his foot, I never understood just how bad the bites could be. He used to come into the place I used to work, he didn't come in for a while, then he came in on crutches and told us the whole sad story. Sucked for him!

notaubermime 3 years, 9 months ago

Celeste: "I know a guy that lost his foot due to a brown recluse bite-this was in Mesa, Az, so I don't know why they would say the brown recluse isn't in the West."

The spider that we call a brown recluse spider is Loxosceles reclusa. Its range is exactly as described in the article. However, there are a number of other species in the same genus (with similar venoms) which are found throughout the southwest. To my knowledge, though, these spiders are much less likely to be encountered and do not invade homes with the frequency of L. reclusa.

Bucker00 3 years, 9 months ago

AZ also is in the known habitation range of the desert recluse. http://www.google.com/search?q=desert+recluse&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7GPEA_en

Really, if you live in an old house, you're likely infested and have no idea. I long ago took to shaking out clothes that I hadn't worn in a while because of this. They're almost impossible to exterminate considering where they choose to take up residence.

BigPrune 3 years, 9 months ago

Did this chick use the flawed temperature readings by those scientists wanting more grant money?

John Hamm 3 years, 9 months ago

"As temperatures creep northward over the next couple decades," Ummm Shouldn't this read "As (higher or warmer or more moderate) temperatures creep northward over the next couple decades,"?

volleydad 3 years, 9 months ago

Most might fit into that size given in the article, but look around any sheets of drywall, plywood or cardboard boxes in garage spaces in late summer and early fall - you WILL find at least one extremely large one. They are cannibalistic, and you know you're near a 'big boy' when you find an increasing number of hollow exoskeletons.

If you have cats, you probably won't see nearly as many as you would otherwise - the kitties seem to like to play with them, then eat em.

If you are seeing these moving around your house, you need to call an exterminator - for every one that you see, there are probably ten somewhere around.

Plus, they're tougher then old Hobbes - I have a monster sized one I captured in my garage in late January - sealed in a small jar for two months now, and seems more than ready to rock-n-roll when he gets a chance. Hey Erin - if you want a world record size BR, let me know!

Kris_H 3 years, 9 months ago

My cats normally won't touch any spider. They just serve as an early warning system by watching them until I have to look and see what they're looking at.

They do like to torture the daddy longlegs though.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

A friend of mine who studies these spiders told me of a species of spider that preys on brown recluses. He pointed out a couple of them, and it's much smaller than most recluses, so I didn't immediately believe him.

But a brown recluse once found its way into a empty jar, and I decided to leave it there to see how long it could last without any food, water (which I understand can be several months.) But within a couple of weeks, one of these tiny spiders somehow found its way into the jar, as well (there was no lid on it.) They both remained in the jar for several days, but at some point, the brown recluse ended up dead, and within a couple of weeks, the small spider had devoured most of the recluse (but without getting much bigger itself, which I found a bit odd.)

The same friend also told me of a related spider, with the same type of venom, that likes to live in the upper reaches in the interior of cabinets. It's smaller, rarer and even more rarely bites humans, so it's not well known.

mr_right_wing 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm reporting bozo....starving a spider like that, for his own inhumane pleasure! What's PETAs number?? Just you wait....you...you...MONSTER!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

From what I understand, it's only a portion of the population that is extremely reactive to the venom of a brown recluse-- that's not to say that it isn't a nasty bite for most people, but most will not have major ulceration or gangrene from the bite. In that respect, it's somewhat similar to wasp and bee stings. It's never pleasant, but for most people, not life-threatening. But for some, it's potentially very dangerous.

Also, extermination is generally not very effective against brown recluses. If you have them in your house, the best thing you can do is to limit the number of hiding spaces in your main living areas, and make a habit of checking bedding before you go to bed and of clothing and shoes before you put them on. And, of course, be very careful when you go digging into boxes.

volleydad 3 years, 9 months ago

I'll agree on the extermination not be effective in the long term. You got to hit em, and hit em again. It may be a 'every spring/summer' kind of thing - they're pretty thick around these parts.

My number one tip for anyone - get rid of the cardboard boxes! Use plastic boxes and crates with good lids if you need to store something - they can't climb slick surfaces, which is why you find them trapped in jars, bowls, pyrex dishes, etc. I've found putting those sticky trap sheets in all the available air ducts and choice cabinet locations can be useful - if for nothing else than to show you what's running around in the nooks and crannies. If you have wood, drywall or similar sheet goods stored in a garage - think about if you really need them there or not.

A weekly spraying with Ortho Home Defense around foundation, doorframes and especially garage doors and the base of garage walls really seems to knock 'em back. Plus, it keeps other 'feeder' insects out, so they don't have much motivation to move in.

I'd love to know what would predate on BR's - they're about the top of the small insect food chain hereabouts. And fast - on a good humid summer night, they can move like greased lightning - it can be really unnerving how fast they can go!

tolawdjk 3 years, 9 months ago

I saw that map. Looks like they be movin into the NE. That be Democrat country. Why is this a bad thing?

Flap Doodle 3 years, 9 months ago

Don't be too worried. Global cooling will come back at some point and drive the 8-legged freaks of death back south.

Bucker00 3 years, 9 months ago

Exactly, their legs keep their abdomens far enough off the ground to render any pesticedes useless unless you spray it directly on them. This was explained to me by an exterminator. If their in your walls, you have to either learn to live with them, or move (probably taking a few with you in the process).

They're not called recluse for no reason. They prefer to stay out of sight.

Bucker00 3 years, 9 months ago

Their, they're.. Argghhh. I know the difference. The grammar police will be after me on that slip.

devobrun 3 years, 9 months ago

The Brits have a similar problem: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-452264/Warning-rise-UKs-dangerous-spider-warmer-winters.html And the wolf spiders in Greenland are bigger: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/090505-spiders-bigger-global-warming.html

If you are a researcher in any field of endeavor and you have yet to link your area of research to global warming, what are you waiting for? It is the one-note samba of science.

Global warming will challenge everything on the planet. Nothing will be better. Everything will be depleted, disturbed, reduced, exacerbated, worsened, threatened, destroyed, and lost forever.

Is global climate change happening? Always has. Will live be different in the future? Of course. But life is infinitely adaptable. That's why they call it life.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Translation: Don't worry, be miserable, cause life sucks, anyway.

okiedave 3 years, 9 months ago

Goodness, this is remarkedly like the article on the Brown Recluse spider scare in Lawrence that I recall back in the late 1950's. It had all the mothers and children scarred for months and was the talk of the town. However, back then it was the fact that the Brown recluse was making its way to Lawrence and would soon be arriving to cause mayhem and murder not seen in the Lawrence since Quantrill came through. They are pretty common in Oklahoma -- many people bitten have no reaction or a small red spot and then it goes away. If it does not go away, you go to the doctor, get a steriod creme or pill and then it goes away. But nice to be informed because for some people it can get pretty ugly and need to be aware of the potential problem.

Scattered 3 years, 9 months ago

Put some of the "glue traps" (available at any big bargain store) under your bed, right up against the wall. You might be unpleasantly surprised at what you find. Everybody in the house made fun of me on my spider patrols.....under the glue trap under the crib trapped 3 brown reculse in one night. .......shudder.......

Scattered 3 years, 9 months ago

Oh, the reason that I am all spider freaky is that I know a family that lost their three-year-old to a brown recluse bite.

geekin_topekan 3 years, 9 months ago

Fire ants will be greater invader.

Ants of Death they are. With this global warming (if it exists) they are steadily headed our way. Even without the warming, they are adapting, as God intended, to cooler climates and will soon develop tiny-sized technologies to dig deeper and faster when they feel the winter coming.

Ants I tell ya.

Ants.

mr_right_wing 3 years, 9 months ago

It is a myth that the brown recluse is aggressive; they're more intent on staying away from you, than you are from them. They do not 'come after you'.

I had a scientist tell me once; 'you're never more than 10 feet away from at least one spider' (I guess you just need to hope it's not the venomous type!)

Since someone already mentioned killer bees; with things warming up, can scorpions be far behind?? Could jellyfish soon appear in the Kansas river?? Dart frogs?

notaubermime 3 years, 9 months ago

There is already a species of scorpion native to Kansas.

whats_going_on 3 years, 9 months ago

ahhhhhhhhhhhhh I hate hate hate those things. They are so freaking fast and disgusting!! Every spring I spray the crap out of the inside and outside of the house so I don't have to worry about them. ICK.

govh8ter 3 years, 9 months ago

I worked on a house just west of 59 highway in pleasant groove hill area that was infested with black widows. There were at least 10 that I could see around the front door. I wonder if that house every sold?

password 3 years, 9 months ago

Scattered - I agree with you I got bit by a brown recluse a few years back at the apartment I used to live at here in Lawrence. The place was infested by them and we had no idea when we moved in. It took over 6 weeks to recover and I thought I was gonna die. I was so sick and couldn't walk for about two weeks. I still have a large deep scar in my upper thigh from it. I'm so glad my kids didn't get bit. It is life threatening so this needs to be taken seriously.

Olympics 3 years, 9 months ago

‎1) 97-98% of 1372 climate researchers support anthropogenic climate change (ACC). 2) The relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html

Irenaku 3 years, 9 months ago

I was bit on the eyelid by one of those little creepers, right on the lash line. Woke up in the middle of the night feeling like acid had been poured on my face. For a week I had the most excrutiating pain I have ever had, even worse than the labor and birth of my kid. My face swelled up like a balloon and I had to go the hospital for 3 days in a row getting pumped full of as much morphine as they could legally give me just to take the edge off. I have often heard that with this kind of spider the skin around the site will rot away, even when you are being treated. I think the only reason I did not lose my eye was because there is not fatty tissue on the eyelid....as my friend said: "thank God you don't have fat eyelids"! hehe..I have put sticky traps down in all corners of my house ever since and so far, have not been bitten again...

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