Fear of the brown-recluse spider
Despite claims of higher numbers of brown recluse spiders in the St. Louis area, experts say there are no indications that there are more of the spiders than usual for this time of year.
"We annually do (see more brown recluse spiders this time of year) because they're being driven out of attics due to the heat up there," said John Hoglund, service manager at Bel-O Pest Solutions in Belleville.
He said it's pretty common for residents to see more of the spider at the end of June through August. Also common, he said, is for people to call pest control when they see the spiders in the bathtubs or sinks and fear the spiders came up through the drains. That's not the case, though. The spiders can get into the smooth basins but can't climb out, which is why they're often seen in sinks and bathtubs.
St. Louis pest control expert Gary Rottler told KMOX Radio he's getting about 50 percent more calls than normal for this time of year.
Rottler, who owns Rottler Pest & Lawn Solutions, told KMOX that brown recluse spiders were being found in bedrooms and bathrooms, and walking across couches. But he noted the spiders weren't seeking people out.
Jake Williams, an assistant professor of biology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, said scientists don't use one year to say if anything is changing. They prefer to observe several years to identify trends.
"Because (the brown recluse) is so closely associated with houses and other types of structures, I don't know why they would be increasing in population," he said.
Both Hoglund and Williams said the spiders live up to their name, preferring areas where humans don't frequent.
"Everybody probably has a small population in your home," Hoglund said. "If you're seeing them on an everyday basis, I would definitely call someone."
Those worried about brown recluse spiders could first set out sticky traps to see how many spiders there are and where they might be, Williams said.
"They don't like to come in contact with us, for sure. They are not looking for us in any way. ... Their venom is to neutralize prey so they can consume them safely, and we're not their prey."