Entomologist offers ways to treat spider infestations

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COLUMBIA - Brown recluse spiders act just like their name implies; they like to hide away from the action.

But when you find one out in the open, things can get a little scary. A brown recluse's bite is venomous, and can be dangerous if not treated quickly and correctly. 

A new study by the Journal of Economic Entomology says sulfuric fumigation, commonly referred to as "tenting a house," is more effective at getting rid of the spiders than previously thought. 

Exterminator Bryan Ninichuck said unless you have a lot of the spiders in the house, sulfuric fumigation is really not necessary. 

"When you have a massive infestation of brown recluse, sometimes that is necessary or it's also a good show, you know, that we are really going to get these guys," Ninichuck said. "But when you get in there and do specific crack and crevice treatments, get into those voids and areas that the brown recluse are hanging out, you generally don't have to use fumigation. 

MU student Jordan Likweig was putting away laundry in at his house in Columbia when he found one of the spiders perched on top of his shorts.  

"I was a little like, 'I hope I don't get bit,'" Liekweg said. "It was really slow, and I just put in a container, took some pictures of it and sent it on its way"

This is the spider that Liekweg found. It has the classic

Liekweg is currently looking for an exterminator after his encounter. 

Entomologist Richard Houseman said while the spiders should be taken seriously, just how seriously depends on the case.

"If you've seen one, you want to start thinking about options. If you are seeing one every day over the span of a month, you want to look a little harder," Houseman said.

While Houseman said it would definitely take care of the problem, he said sulfuric fumigation should only be used if you are ready to drop thousands of dollars to fix the issue.

"Just laying out some sticky traps and can help to reduce the chance of a brown recluse problem," Houseman said. "Fumigation for a few spiders is like nuking a house."

Houseman said the spiders are different from other spiders because they only have six eyes, and very little body hair.  

This is a brown recluse that Dr. Houseman photographed.

Houseman said he did not have any live samples, as storing spiders that hunt is harder than those that usually build webs. This spider is shown in it's silk web home, which isn't used to trap prey like other spiders.

Houseman said Missouri has one of the largest populations of brown recluses, and that some entomologists even refer to Missouri as the "brown recluse capital."