Do Brown Recluse Spiders Reign by Terror?

An Arachnologist Dispels the Fears of the Eight-Legged Boogeyman

About a decade ago, a pest control manager emailed me saying he had a big problem. At six military facilities he oversaw, strange wounds were popping up on people’s skin. The facilities’ doctors diagnosed them as spider bites. But the manager had searched throughout the barracks, and he couldn’t find any spiders.

He was at his wit’s end, and wanted to know if there was anything I could do to help. I’m an arachnologist, and my specialty is the brown recluse spider—a creature that hides in cracks and crevices. Sure, I …