THE SPIDER POISONS


The Latrodectus mactans is the largest spider of its family. It sometimes attains a length of one-half inch. The abdomen is round and the whole body is a velvety black, except a bright red spot underneath and one or more red spots over the spinnerets and along the middle of the back.


LATRODECTUS MACTANS.

This “Black Widow,” as it is called, is a member of the genus Latrodectus of the family Theridiidae, which bears the name of being the only truly venomous family of spiders. However this may be, observations of Latrodectus poisonings have been recorded that show it to be a powerful venom, having a direct action on the circulatory system. In fifteen cases observed by Dr. Boger in the Los Angeles General Hospital, the spiders bite had been witnessed by the patient, and nearly all these cases developed pain in the legs and abdomen, extreme abdominal rigidity, high blood pressure and high temperature. Had these cases been recorded by a trained homoeopathic physician, how much valuable data we might have gained!.

It is significant that the higher types of animal development show the greatest reaction to Latrodectus poisoning. Horses and camels have succumbed to the bite, while sheep and pigs can eat the spider without any ill effects, and are used to clear fields of the spiders instead of the more common custom of burning over the fields. Experiments have determined that extracts from the poison gland of the spider will kill a cat very quickly.

The Latrodectus mactans is the largest spider of its family. It sometimes attains a length of one-half inch. The abdomen is round and the whole body is a velvety black, except a bright red spot underneath and one or more red spots over the spinnerets and along the middle of the back. The legs of the male are much longer than those of the female, although the male varies in size of body very much, in some instances being only about one-fourth the size of the female. Each joint of the legs is marked with orange, shading to black at the edges of the joint. The male also has four pairs of stripes along his sides, red in the middle and white at the edges.

This spider makes its nest among loose stones, on plants or in houses. Around its hiding place it spins a large funnel-shaped tent that widens into a flat or curved sheet of web, closer in texture toward the tube and more open toward the edges, spreading two or three feet over plants and stones. It is found all over the United States as far north as Massachusetts and New Hampshire, although its northward spread was by forced means, a professor whose summer home was in New Hampshire carrying some specimens north for experimental purposes, and they escaped from captivity and made themselves at home.

Their habitat extends southward through Florida, the West Indies and South America, as far as Chile. It is probably the Theridion curassavicum of the West Indies, or a very near relative, for the Theridion cur. also has the velvety black body with the spots in the same relative position as the Latrodectus mactans (the large spot underneath and the three smaller ones above) but the color of the spots in Theridion cur., is not bright red, but yellow underneath and orange-red above, and in size the Theridion cur. is about the size of a cherry pit.

Many of the Latrodectus symptoms that have been recorded resemble those of Theridion cur., although Latrodectus has not been thoroughly proven, and Theridion cur. was proven by that indefatigable worker, Hering. Had there been a more careful proving of Latrodectus by such a master as Hering, we might have noted more similarities.

It is interesting to note that the genus Latrodectus will eat almost anything, including tarentulas, scorpions woodlice and lizards, and even the Spanish fly, cantharides, all without showing any poisonous effects.

The poisonous effects of the bile of this spider on human beings have given us some peculiar and valuable symptoms, which are almost wholly associated with the action of the poison on the heart. There is disorganization of the blood, with inability to coagulate. We have used this remedy in these critical conditions with prompt and marked effect.

H.A. Roberts
Dr. H.A.Roberts (1868-1950) attended New York Homoeopathic Medical College and set up practrice in Brattleboro of Vermont (U.S.). He eventually moved to Connecticut where he practiced almost 50 years. Elected president of the Connecticut Homoeopathic Medical Society and subsequently President of The International Hahnemannian Association. His writings include Sensation As If and The Principles and Art of Cure by Homoeopathy.