Climate Change to Push Brown Recluse Spiders Across North America


Photo credit: br-recluse-guy via Wikimedia/Public Domain

The brown recluse spider occupies an ominous station in American folklore -- it's bite, we're told on schoolyard playgrounds, is even deadlier than a black widow's! (Indeed, on very rare occasions, the bite of a brown recluse can be deadly) And it currently occupies the Southeastern quadrant of the US -- from around Texas to southern Iowa to Kentucky. But a study finds that a warming climate may render some of its southern homes inhospitable, and force it to spread across the nation to beat the heat. Fox News (!) reports:

Researcher Erin Saupe used two ecological models to predict the extent of the spider's range in 2020, 2050 and 2080 given the effects of global warming ...

If the projections are correct, by 2080, perhaps only 5 percent of the spider's current range -- which extends from Kansas across to Kentucky and from Texas across to Georgia, including the states in between -- would remain suitable for it. However, climate change could make portions of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Nebraska and South Dakota habitable to the spiders.

Brown recluses in New York? Bummer. Saupe notes that it wouldn't really expand the spider's territory, just shift it northward. So by 2080, Texas could be brown recluse-free, while Manhattan residents are checking their shoes for spiders.

The report also notes that this might not scare Americans -- because most of us already erroneously think that brown recluses can be found anywhere across the continent.

Finally, I'd like to make a note about the source -- here, Fox News has put together a solid, lifestyle-y climate change story that never calls the phenomenon into question. It's worth noting that while Fox's marquee names are shouting about how global warming is a hoax on prime time television, its own science reporters are quietly reporting the facts anyways. And outside of a politicized context, Fox readers are probably much more apt to digest this information without any major skepticism.

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