Spiders and Snakes

James J. Kruse kruse at nature.Berkeley.EDU
Tue Feb 15 23:55:57 EST 2000

Hello all,

Here's a relevant little adventure story.

Two years ago I went down to SE Arizona alone (perhaps a mistake,
being alone that is...) for three weeks on a collecting trip. Whenever I
moved to new locales, I would go to a payphone and call a friend in Tucson
to let them know where I was in case any one needed to know. Maybe a
ranger could find me if there was some sort of emergency, but at least
someone would know where I was, and my wife had someone to call to give
me messages.

After stopping to make my phone call, I departed for Guadalupe Canyon in
the Peloncillo Mts in the extreme SE corner of AZ. After 40 miles of
driving on dirt roads I was very disappointed to find Guadalupe Canyon
gated up and locked, well away from decent habitat for what I was
after. With a couple hours of light left, I consulted my map and decided
to try for Cottonwood Canyon, another 30-40 miles off. Without a cellphone
this meant that no one knew where I was going to be (mistake 2).

I made it to Cottonwood Canyon, Peloncillo Mts, before dark, set up my
mercury vapor lights up on top of sheets spread out on the ground and got
them going at dusk.

At around 11, I was chasing a Sphingid around with my hands on the sheet
(mistake 3 AND 4) when "something" under the sheet nailed my hand between
the thumb and forefinger. At first there was very little pain, in fact, I
barely took notice at the time that I had been bit or stung. Within 15
minutes, the bite area swelled to about 1 square centimeter (wide and
high). It also began to really sting and throb. I had enough sense to
bring a snake-bite kit into country like this, and used it. I managed to
extract an entire drop of material, though whether it was all venom or
mostly my own fluids I can't be sure. Gave me a heck of a bruise.

After 30-45 minutes I began to feel pretty bad. I started getting chills
(over 90 degrees outside), I got a stomach ache, my vision was getting
blurry, my breathing was getting shallow, and my heart was palpitating. At
least one of these symptoms may have been due to my increasing worry about
my own welfare. The big bump now spread out to a rather painful red patch
over half of my hand.

In short, I was too worried to go to sleep because I may not wake up
again, and I spent a fair amount of time looking for suspects. I also
drank as much water as I possibly could, hoping it would help. At first
light, I packed up and got the heck out of there. I would have loved to
stay a couple more days, but I wanted to drive out while I could. If I
was going to get sicker, I wanted to be where someone would come across

I still don't know what got me. There were lots of wasps around, but I
have never had a reaction like that to a wasp sting. I was thinking
spider, but the wound was a single hole. The next logical choice is
scorpion, and I think I may have been hit by a big benign one. I say this
because my reaction reminded me of the reaction a friend of mine got from
a 6 foot non-poisonous snake in Japan. The snake wasn't poisonous, but the
amount of material injected still had an effect.

Be safe!
Jim Kruse
University of California at Berkeley
Dept. of Environ Sci, Policy and Mgmt.
Div. of Insect Biology
201 Wellman Hall
Berkeley, California, 94720-3112
Voice: (510) 642-7410    Fax: (510) 642-7428

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