Mazda develops case of arachnophobia; issues recall

IRVINE, CA (RNN) - In the age-old nursery rhyme, the itsy bitsy spider goes up the water spout.

In 2011, however, the spider seems to have caught up with the times. According to Mazda, an itsy bitsy spider may be crawling up your vehicle's evaporative canister and putting your life at risk.

According to Jeremy Barnes, director of communication and national events for Mazda, the car maker discovered small spiders had entered the evaporate canister vent lines of some of its 4-cylinder Mazda 6 vehicles and spun webs, subjecting the vehicles to possible fuel leaks.

Is the yellow sac spider harmful to humans?

Rick Vetter, research associate at the University of California Riverside, said the yellow sac spider is now "one of the most common house spiders," numbering in the millions.

Vetter said the spider is harmless to humans but also "not something to worry about."

Their bites hurt like a bee-sting, so they would likely wake you up if one bit you while sleeping. They leave red marks and may cause swelling and itching, side effects that generally go away after about two days.

Vetter said he used to find the spiders in his apartment and reported no major incidents.

He said the yellow sac spider is a non-native species from Europe that came to North America around the 1950s and spread.

"We've found blockage in this line that appears to be related to a particular type of spider," Barnes said.

Barnes said that in the "worst-case scenario," the fuel tank could potentially crumple in on itself in a way that air deflates from a plastic bag. That could result in gas leaks and even fire.

As a result, Mazda recalled 65,916 of the vehicles Thursday.

Barnes identified the culprit as the yellow sac spider, a small arachnid with a body about three-eighths of an inch long with legs that measure about three-fourths of an inch.

While this news may be shocking to you, according to spider expert Rick Vetter, this occurrence is "not a surprise."

"People make places, and they're great space for animals to live in," said Vetter, a research associate at the University of California Riverside.

Vetter said a similar problem often occurs in the gas lines of barbeques.

"[People] fire them up, and there's blockage, because the spider webs are in the way," he said, noting that grills should always be checked before they are lit up at the beginning of the season.

Vetter said the yellow sac spider is a very common house spider. It is a hunter that feeds at night and finds "little crevices" to sleep in during the day.

"They like tight spaces," he said.

Entomologist Dr. Barb Ogg, extension educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, echoed Vetter's comments, saying she has seen sac spiders turn up in interesting places. Once, she found a spider hiding in the folds of a green pepper she picked.

When the spider is ready to rest, it takes an object such as a leaf and forms a sac around it. The atypical web is what causes blockage in the Mazdas.

"It's going to be a complete sack," Vetter said. "So you can't see through it."

According to Barnes, a "number of vehicles" have been affected by the yellow sack spider issue.

But Vetter said the Mazda 6's crevices have likely been explored by other sac spiders, as there are many species.

"It's not going to be just the yellow sack spider," he said.

Barnes said thus far, no Mazdas have been seriously affected by the spider webs and that the recall is restricted to North America.

"We've not had any fires, any injuries or any accidents," he said.

His company does have a solution to the problem. It will inspect and clean the vent lines and install a one-way valve to block the spiders from taking up residence inside them.

Barnes said Mazda will soon contact every 4-cylinder Mazda 6 owner in North America.

"This shows just how complicated the modern vehicle is," he said.

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