I’ve been researching various spiders recently because I’ve been trying to find out what bit me, and I’m fairly certain that it was the brown widow. We’d seen the spider around the bathroom previously, and she kept to herself. She had that definite black widow shape, but with a big brown booty instead of being shiny black. Her web was a disorganized mess, but she was collecting carpenter ants like crazy so we let her stay.
A few days before the bites, I noticed she was gone from her usual spot behind the toilet, so I just assumed she moved somewhere else after exhausting her supply of carpenter ants. I was right, and late Wednesday/early Thursday, I found out where she’d gone. Apparently under the headboard.
The way I sleep, I put my arms under my pillow, and occasionally my hands will be in the space between the mattress and the headboard. Our mattress is about three inches or so too short for the bed frame, so we have quite a bit of space there. I’m assuming she got herself somewhere around there and was just startled by my hands.
I woke up Thursday morning around 1 to 1:30 chewing on my right ring finger. It was itchy and swollen, and in my sleep I had started trying to scratch it with my teeth. At the time I assumed it was a mosquito bite on my knuckle because I’d heard one buzzing around before I went to bed.
I stayed in bed and tried to go back to sleep, but the itchiness just continued. After a while, I could no longer feel the pillow with my ring or pinky fingers. I could only feel itchiness. I got out of bed and ran my hand under cold water for a while. I noticed that I had a few spots where my teeth had broken skin, probably from my eczema blisters that were stretched out from the swelling. I used a washcloth to scratch my finger so I wouldn’t tear the skin.
The swelling of the finger was enough to keep me from closing my hand all the way. The itchiness had died down enough that I could go back to sleep, so I did.
When I got up in the morning, the itchiness was gone, but my hand was still swollen. I got out of bed and the first thing I noticed was that my right leg did not want to work. A tendon on my right knee felt like it was swollen and would not let me bend my leg without pain. James got me some ice and did the driving for the day. My leg pain did not subside, even with pain killers. I had a strange pain in my left collar bone as well. I didn’t really think that all of these were connected because I still thought it was just a mosquito bite.
I spent the day trying to find out what could possibly cause this. The results came up as widow spider bites. There are several kinds, but people only seem to fear the black widow. The articles I found said this is because the black widow will inject much more of her weaker venom, causing more pain. The brown widow, and the other widows if they bite, will use small amounts of their stronger venom. Brown widows are an invasive species, new to the US and not common enough in Ohio to be listed as having the state as in their range. Everything I read fit, but I still had my doubts. There were bites from mites and other things that could possibly have similar effects.
That night, the swelling in my hand was down enough that I could actually tell where the bites were. One just under my ring fingernail. Another about two inches down, below the knuckle. Yet another about four inches down on my hand. And another one about six inches down that on my arm. My left hand has one bite on the index finger and one on the middle finger, below the first knuckle. Those ones didn’t seem to have any ill effects other than redness and itchiness.
I began to look at various bug bite pictures, trying to confirm what was going on. Nothing I looked at really matched until I got back to widow spiders. I don’t know why I doubted it so much, but this is really all it could have been.
Friday morning, the pain in my leg had spread a little. Rather than just being the tendon at my knee, it was now my calf muscle and a muscle in my thigh. I went to work and kept my leg propped up, but then my left shoulder started to get the same pain. At one point, I went to the rest room and found another spider bite on my right thigh. That’s what convinced me it had to have been a brown widow. My right knee having pain wasn’t something unrelated to the bites on my hand. I found a bite on my left elbow later.
I left work early and just chilled around the house. I read more on brown widows, trying to ID the spider in the bathroom from memory. I was at the point where I couldn’t tell if my memory was helping me find the spider by looking at images, or if looking at images was molding my memory of the spider. I remembered the big booty. I remembered the size. I remembered the web. That matched. But the hourglass? I don’t remember seeing that. I don’t remember seeing the designs on the abdomen. I don’t remember the stripes on the legs.
Friday night, as James and I were about to get into the car, I noticed a spider in the window of the garage. She had the booty. We looked at her, and based on what we’d both seen about brown widows, we’re certain that is what bit me EIGHT FUCKING TIMES.