Brown recluse spider reported in Brinser; College waits four days to take action

The Etownian October 14, 2011 0

Imagine that one morning, you woke up and there was a spider on your pillow. Would you get scared? Most of you would probably be startled, if not move immediately. Now imagine that you knew that this spider was one of the rarest and most poisonous spiders in Pennsylvania, and it was right on your pillow. This occurred to junior Rachel Bucher, Brinser Resident, who woke up one morning with what she claimed to be a brown recluse spider right next to her. “I was terrified,” she said. Many of us would react instinctively, possibly by killing the spider. However instead of squashing the spider right then and there, Bucher notified junior Resident Assistant Ashley Zehner of the situation and an exterminator was brought in to take care of the situation.

According to research found on, the brown recluse spider is known to be located in various parts of the midwestern United States through Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. The spider can also be found in Texas, South Carolina and Kentucky, so how the spider could have been discovered in a college dorm room in Elizabethtown, Pa., is unknown.

Area Coordinator Dan Cline was aware of the situation during room inspections. He noted that Bucher had taken an insect class and therefore had prior knowledge to determine whether the spider was poisonous.

Bucher identified the brown recluse spider herself and feels that the College could have taken care of the situation sooner. “I think considering how poisonous the spider was, the College should have sent somebody to check the room sooner instead of waiting for four days.”

However, Zehner followed RA procedures and, because she was notified of the situation at 5 p.m., the timeline for contacting appropriate personnel was delayed. Zehner reported the incident to Campus Security and called in a work order for an exterminator.

Zehner believes this is one of the more serious situations she has dealt with as an RA. “I am especially concerned with this infestation because of specific allergies around campus and the unknown side effects it can cause for these specific people,” Zehner said.

When asked how they would react to a potentially poisonous spider laying right next to them in the morning, many said they would react as Rachel had done. Senior Alison Cochran, junior RA Lauren Stine and junior Kim Webster would all, admittedly, freak out. However, Stine said she would try to catch the spider. Sophomore Calla Heathman would look it up first and then kill it. Many other students said they would grab the nearest item and kill it with no hesitation.

Nevin Brown, senior biology major and resident of Brinser, stated, “The exterminator and facilities should check the entire building. Facilities should also call in experts. I highly doubt that facilities are professionally trained on how to deal with arachnids.”

There is much speculation as to how the spider got into Bucher’s room in the first place. Although we may never know, certain actions should be taken if you find a spider or any insect in your room.

Zehner explained that if any student sees any insects, he or she should notify his or her RA because an RA is trained in dealing with these types of encounters. Zehner also recommended that if the student is not sure what insect it is, to either take a picture or to kill it and keep it in a container so that Facilities may analyze it and take further action. Cline suggests that students not remove screens from windows because that is the main cause of the infestation of many insects on campus. Bucher’s only rule of advice is this: “To anybody else that is deathly afraid of spiders­—if there is any doubt in your mind, kill it. Also, there is usually more than one, so notify your RA if you see any brown recluse spiders in your dorm room.”

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