Myth: Spider ID by doctors, exterminators

Illustration: Henry C. McCook
Illustration: Henry C. McCook

Myth: Physicians, exterminators, and entomologists can identify spiders.

Fact: Only arachnologists have the highly specialized skills needed to identify spiders, which take years of concentrated study to learn. To be sure, a few entomologists (insect specialists) and a very small number of physicians are also arachnologists, but the vast majority are not.

No medical school teaches even the basics of real spider identification; the most that medical students are likely to get is misinformation about identification by so-called "markings." Sad to say, numerous physicians have mis-diagnosed patients with mysterious sores, without even seeing a spider, as having been bitten by spider species that did not even exist in their locations.

Most pest control operators have very inadequate training even in the identification of common pest insects; few are trained entomologists, and I know of only one in the United States who is an arachnologist. Misidentifications by non-arachnologists are the source of a very large number of false spider reports and "scares" in the news media.

Spider Myths

"Everything that 'everybody knows' about spiders is wrong!" —Rod Crawford sets the record straight with Spider Myths.

close up of a spider

Spider Myth Resources

Explore even more! Additional spider resources and more myths (poor spiders can't catch a break!).

Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum
Photo: Cathy Morris/Burke Museum