Of the 3,000 spider species found in North America, the state of Texas plays host to a whopping 980 species of the eight-legged arachnids, according to the Texas A&M University Cooperative Extension. And while that number may give Texas citizens an instant case of the heebie jeebies, relax. Only two resident groups are considered dangerous to humans -- the rest are virtually harmless, and yes, even beneficial to the environment.
Common groups of spiders found in Texas include orb weavers, jumping spiders, tarantulas, wolf spiders and southern house spiders. Although all of these species possess venom and the ability to bite humans, their small-scale attacks are typically comparable to that of a mosquito bite or bee sting. Even large, hairy tarantulas -- which have gained an unseemly reputation over the years -- are virtually harmless.
Two dangerous species of spiders haunt the Texas landscape, says the Texas Department of State Health Services. Both are capable of delivering extremely harmful, venomous bites to people and pets. The black widow injects a neurotoxin, which can lead to severe systemic reactions and, in rare cases, death. The bite of the brown recluse can cause painful local or systemic reactions. Medical attention should be sought immediately if a black widow or brown recluse bite is suspected.
All spider bites have the potential to become infected, so always thoroughly cleanse the area with soap and water or, preferably, an antiseptic. Apply an ice pack directly to the bite to relieve pain and swelling. Immediate medical attention should be sought for severe allergic reactions, including lesions, fever, nausea, headache, chills, tremors, cramping, weakness, fainting and profuse sweating. It is ideal if the spider can be collected for medical analysis.
To manage spider populations inside your home, the Texas Cooperative Extension recommends sealing points of entry with caulk, weather stripping and screens. Seal stored boxes, and do not collect woodpiles and debris close to your house. Dust and vacuum regularly. Outside your home, go ahead and dust window ledges, roof eaves and porches, but don't be too quick to chemically wipe out whole spider populations. They are generally harmless and help control invasive insects that can damage your lawn and garden.
Yvette Sajem has been a professional writer since 1995. Her work includes greeting cards and two children's books. A lifelong animal advocate, she is active in animal rescue and transport, and is particularly partial to senior and special needs animals.