March 14 is Save A Spider Day in the U.S. and while Charlotte and Peter Parker have been fighting the good fight to redeem the spider's reputation, arachnophobia is still running rampant, especially in the United States. One study conducted during a freshman entomology class at Colorado State University found that "the most commonly mentioned specific factor in spider fear was bites and the perceived danger of spiders with figures indicat[ing] that spider fear levels of college students in Colorado are substantially higher than those reported from European general populations. But are spiders the nightmare they've always been portrayed to be? Do they bite? Do they carry diseases? Are brown recluse spiders everywhere just waiting to strike?
First of all, a lot of those spider bites you've heard about weren't actually spider bites. A study in the Journal of Medical Entomology has shown that there are several medical conditions that can be commonly misdiagnosed as spider bites including "bacterial, viral, and fungal infections; vasculitis; dermatological conditions; bites and stings from other arthropods; and miscellaneous causes such as allergies or drug reactions, chemical burns, reactions to poisonous plants, or diabetic ulcers." The study also expanded on the idea that Hobo Spiders are disease-transferring which it turns out, they are not. Other common house spiders have also had their name cleared when it comes to spreading MRSA.
And those brown recluse spiders? Not as common as you may think: "the distribution of populations of [brown recluse spiders] is well demarcated from southeastern Nebraska through the southernmost strip of Ohio and south into Texas to northern Georgia and western South Carolina." That doesn't stop them from being accused of spider bites far outside their native areas. And if you do come across a brown recluse? It's highly unlikely to bite you. Take this study where an infestation of 2,055 brown recluse spiders was collected in a Kansas home that a family had been living in for many years, all without ever receiving a spider bite.