Ok, so the title has you curious and why did I capitalize the word Bacon? Well actually Bacon refers to the actor Kevin Bacon but what does he have to do with the brown recluse? Well nothing really except for the fact that just as you can link any actor to him through movies plays or commercials in 6 steps or less, you can also link anybody in the United States to someone who has been bitten by the brown recluse spider.
For Mr. Bacon this small world phenomenon actually became quite a popular game called the “6 degrees of Kevin Bacon” and was based on a theory called “6 degrees of separation” from way back in 1929. Being the noble man that he is he used this game to launch his charity sixdegrees.org. It was started in 2007 and to date they have raised almost 3 million dollars for charity. I applaud him.
Now if my game takes off I’m not so sure I’ll be so philanthropic, after all I’m just a struggling blogger who has a side job of killing bugs. I got the idea for this game because EVERYBODY I’ve met over the years has been or knows someone who has been bitten by the dreaded brown recluse spider. If I had a dollar for every time since just living in Florida someone has told me that they personally have suffered a recluse bite and the wound took months to heal, I’d have about 500 bucks. (I’ve been here since 1991) If I had that same dollar for someone who knows someone it would equal about 5000. To me this is amazing because we don’t even have the recluse in this state nor is it in the majority of the rest. In fact the recluse is only confirmed in about 15 states yet this legend seems to know no bounds.
So here’s how my game works;
The goal is to connect a person to someone who has been bitten or knows someone who has been bitten by the spider in 6 steps or less. Since we’re not dealing with movie stars who worked with other famous people our game will allow for the connectee to use someone else in the group that they know to help provide the connecter. ie; Sara does not know anyone and cannot contact someone she thinks may have knowledge of a bite victim or at least another possible connection so she uses Bill in the group who she does know and he confirms or denies any connections. This counts as one step. Bill repeats the step and either knows someone, can contact them or does not and it continues until the 6th person and the game is over. The final connecting person cannot be asked again but can play his turn by excluding his connecting person even if it was he that was bitten.
Now it may seem that this game would go nowhere and be a real downer at your next party. Who in the world knows somebody else that’s been bitten by a recluse? Well, unless I miss my guess I’m sure the results will amaze you. No other spider except the black widow perhaps has more lore associated with it and dry tongues at an awkward party will suddenly loosen with tales of someone’s uncle who lost his arm or had a hole in his belly that was 5 inches deep. Doctors routinely perpetuate the myth by diagnosing bites without ever seeing the spider and not realizing bites from the yellow sac spider can be almost identical and are far more common. Yellow sac spiders are also found throughout the U.S. and places in Europe so it is more highly likely the bites reported are from them and not the recluse. Even the famous ‘violin’ marking is not the most reliable way to identify a recluse. So many other spiders have similar patterns and are totally harmless and unless you have a magnifying glass and count the eyes you cannot make a positive id. The best way to truly identify a Brown Recluse is that it only has 6 eyes ( instead of the normal 8 ) in 3 groups of 2.
I don’t want to seem insensitive to those who have been bitten by the recluse or the yellow sac spider for that matter. It is a serious thing to have a necrotic wound regardless of the source. It is however difficult to talk someone out of something they believe so passionately and swear on a stack of Bibles they saw the thing. In pest control so much of what we do is educate the the customer but in these cases that can be next to impossible. So while not mocking anyone we can at least have a little fun, especially at the next office party that could use a little pick me up. Oh by the way the name of my game.
The six I’s of the brown recluse
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