Brown Recluse Spider email hoax
We've been flooded with enquiries concerning a supposedly dangerous spider, whose bite is alleged to cause severe necrosis of the flesh.
There are several versions of an email implicating the Brown Recluse Spider, Loxosceles reclusa, as a dangerous spider in Australia. These emails have been circulating the world for a long time now, with early versions referring to the species expanding across the USA. However at one point this hoax was modified to scare Australian email users.
A full version of the hoax email can be found at this website [warning: contains graphic images].
In brief, the email warns the reader to be aware of a new spider that resembles a Huntsman Spider (Family Sparassidae) which is supposedly spreading from the east coast towards the west, and allegedly causes horrific flesh-eating wounds over a period of a few days.
The email makes no effort to tell readers how to distinguish between Huntsman Spiders and the suspect spider, nor does it offer any first aid advice.
The story is false and the following points should be noted:
- The Brown Recluse Spider does not cause this type of wound, but can cause small necrotic lesions.
- This spider has not been recorded from Australia although a related species, Loxosceles rufescens, has been established in South Australia for the last 40 years, but has not extended its range.
- Even in the United States, where it occurs naturally, it is restricted to the south east and has not expanded its range across populated areas.
- Where this species is common in the USA, bites are rare and treatable.
- No bites have been attributed to any Loxosceles species in Australia.
- Similar wounds have also been blamed on the native White-tailed Spiders, Lampona spp.
- There are no known spiders in Australia that have been proven to have necrotic (tissue-destroying) venom.
- The causes of these necrotic wounds in Australia are diverse and probably not related to spiders
If you have received such an email, the best thing you can do is delete it. You can also warn the sender that this is a hoax. Please feel free to add a link to this web page for more information.
- Vetter, R.S. 2008. Spiders of the genus Loxosceles (Araneae, Sicariidae): a review of biological, medical and psychological aspects regarding envenomations. The Journal of Arachnology 36:150-163 Download as a PDF.
- Australian Museum News.com story from November 28, 2008
- Spider Research. University of California, Riverside.
- Vetter R. 2002. 2,000 brown recluse spiders in a Kansas home and no bites. UC Riverside study notes.
Do you have a question or comment? Please contact our Search & Discover team.
Chris Hosking , Interpretive Officer