close
close

No, poisonous spiders have not yet migrated to Prince Edward Island

0

This story is from the latest episode of the new CBC podcast Good Question, PEI

Listen.

Good question, PEI is available on the CBC Listen app or wherever you get your podcasts.

It may be creepy and gross, but there's good news: the tiny spider that climbed into your faucet is probably not poisonous.

If you've heard rumors that the poisonous brown recluse spider spins its web on the island, don't believe them.

Sarah Bernath heard it and turned to the CBC podcast “Good Question,” PEI, for confirmation.

“Like most islanders, we have a woodpile outside and I just grab the logs without thinking about it. If I knew there was a poisonous spider living there, I might put on gloves. I might be a little more careful.”

I can just agree with it.

“Do they like humid environments? Dry ones?” Bernath continued. “Should I be worried if I go into my basement?”

Should you? The question prompted podcast host Nicola MacLeod to fire off emails to anyone with “spider” or “invasive species” in their job title.

Clay Cutting, a technician with the PEI Invasive Species Council, was able to allay these fears.

“We don't have any brown recluse spiders on Prince Edward Island,” he said confidently. “The likelihood of the brown recluse spider being present on Prince Edward Island is about as high as it is in a place like the Arctic north, I would say.”

Clay Cutting with this tool is reminiscent of digging up invasive plants because it pulls out the entire root ball. Clay Cutting with this tool is reminiscent of digging up invasive plants because it pulls out the entire root ball.

Clay Cutting with this tool is reminiscent of digging up invasive plants because it pulls out the entire root ball.

Clay Cutting, pictured here using a tool to dig up invasive plants, is also qualified to answer questions about unwanted insects on Prince Edward Island. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Cutting had also heard the rumors. In 2017, a man from Nova Scotia believed he had been bitten by a brown recluse spider.

Brown recluse spiders look like a typical spider, not like a tarantula or anything big and hairy. They are typically found in the southern and midwestern United States.

If they do end up here, Cutting says, it's probably as imported goods, for example on the way to a grocery store or as nursery stock for a garden center.

“If you're in an area with the invasive species and it happens to get stuck on your clothing, you can also spread it if you move to another area with that invasive species. So that can happen and you should probably always be aware of that.

“But I wouldn't say it's something to be afraid of or to be afraid of.”

Christine Noronha, an entomologist with Agriculture and Agri Food Canada, says rising temperatures could drive some southern-native insects our way. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

Christine Noronha, an entomologist with Agriculture and Agri Food Canada, said poisonous black widows have been known to enter our region in bags of grapes.

But no brown recluse spiders. And even if they did come here, as their name suggests, they are shy and reclusive. And they probably wouldn't survive long in our cold climate.

That could change if temperatures continue to rise in our seasons. Noronha said researchers are tracking insects and have found some are moving further north.

“We actually see a greater chance of survival for the insects that are already here, and there is always the possibility that as temperatures rise, some of the introduced insects will survive.”

For now, however, it is still safe to go into the basement.

Have a question about an episode? Great question, PEI wants to hear from you!

Email [email protected] or call our Talkback line at 1-800-680-1898.

More stories from the Good question, PEI Podcasts: