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Baerg was challenged by a Cornell colleague to investigate whether black widows were harmless or poisonous. […] He made extensive observations of black widow behavior and its venom’s effects on rats. Baerg used himself as an experimental subject to test the effects of the venom on humans. He induced a black widow to bite the third finger of his left hand, but the bite was apparently superficial, and he suffered no symptoms besides a “slight, sharp pain.” Baerg repeated the test the following day, this time allowing the spider’s fangs to remain inserted for five seconds. During the next three days, Baerg recorded his symptoms and reactions, creating the first account of the effects of the black widow spider bite on humans; it was published in the March 1923 edition of The Journal of Parasitology (vol. 9, no. 3). Baerg observed the swelling and pain that followed the spider’s bite, noting that, as the symptoms spread to his shoulder, chest, and hips, he had problems with breathing and speech. He also noted that the “doctor advises that I go to bed.” He recalled the experience later, saying that the pain was severe and different from anything he had ever experienced. Baerg induced numbers of arachnids to bite or sting him over the successive years and recorded the resulting effects.

{ Encyclopedia of Arkansas | Continue reading }

art { Joan Miró, Painting (Head and Spider), 1925 }