Polk County authorities report rare death from spider bite

LAKELAND, Fla. - A brown recluse spider is believed to have killed a Polk County man.

Ron Reese thought the bite he suffered last summer would heal on its own, but it landed him in the hospital for months at a time with uncontrollable pain.

He died Feb. 16, according to his 89-year-old father, Bill.

"It bit him right on the back of his neck and rotted out to the vertebrae," Bill said. "He wasn't afraid of anything. He thought he was invincible. But he wasn't."

The bite happened in early August when Ron was renovating an old home south of Mulberry.

The brown recluse spider is one of a small list of spiders that can be dangerous.

"For this continent, it's one of our nastiest spiders," said Dr. Logan Randolph, a Polk State College biology professor.

Randolph, somewhat of a spider-man himself, has owned several over the years.

He said spider bites are common but very rarely kill. The American Association of Poison Control reports only five deaths since 2002, two of those from the brown recluse.

"Most deaths can be related to allergic reactions, not the venom itself," Randolph said. "And your body is not recognizing that chemical."

Reese said his son went through several medical procedures but nothing seemed to work. Complications from the bite eventually paralyzed half of his body.

"I thank the Lord every day that he's out of his misery," he said.

The brown recluse typically hides in old, dark buildings, wood stacks and under debris.

If bitten, experts recommend seeing a doctor immediately, which could be where Ron went wrong.

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