Hey, remember that time you thought a spider bit you? Well, it probably didn't. According to arachnologists, that "bite" you got was more likely from one of the many other creepy-crawlies out there. It could even be an infection (unrelated to spiders).
I like spiders. If I see one in my house, I don't kill it — I like to think it's working hard to keep my home free of other annoying pests. Granted, if I find one that looks particularly menacing, I'm not going to go over and pick it up. I'm not stupid, what if it bites me? But maybe I don't have anything to worry about after all.
Over at LiveScience, Douglas Main investigates the source of "spider bites" people often claim to get. Turns out, most spider bites are not from spiders — they are more likely to be bites and stings from a number of other arthropods (fleas, bedbugs and the like) or even skin reactions to chemicals. "You really have to work to get bitten by a spider, because they don't want to bite you," arachnologist Chris Buddle tells Main.
There are several reasons that bite you got probably wasn't from a spider: A lot of spiders tend to avoid people, don't feed on us, are not offensive and don't have fangs strong enough to pierce our skin.
Of course, that's not to say spiders never bite humans. Though when it does happen, it may be because the spider was surprised or trying to defend itself (seriously, why did you stick your hand into its shoe home?).
However, in North America, you do have to watch out for spiders from the widow group and the recluse group, whose bites can be medically serious. But even then, most cases of reported bites turn out to be false alarms. Main explains:
The vast majority of "spider bites" are caused by something else, research shows. One study [arachnologist Rick Vetter] cited found that of 182 Southern California patients seeking treatment for spider bites, only 3.8 percent had actual spider bites, while 85.7 percent had infections.
And a national study found that nearly 30 percent of people with skin lesions who said they had a spider bite actually had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. Other things that can cause symptoms that mimic spider bites include biting fleas or bedbugs, allergies, poison oak and poison ivy, besides various viral and bacterial infections, Vetter said.
What about you, have you ever been bitten by a spider? Sound off in the comments. And do check out the full story over at LiveScience.
Top image via Rexness/Flickr Advanced.