Great Basin Naturalist


An examination of death certificates at the Utah Bureau of Health Statistics from 1900 through 1990 indicates that Utah has a very low incidence of human fatalities due to venomous bites and stings. During this 91-year period, 20 fatalities were recorded from bee (10) or hornet (1) stings, spider bites (4), and rattlesnake bites (5). There were eight additional fatalities during the early part of this century recorded "insect bite," "apparently insect bite," or "unknown agent poisoning," some of which may have included spiders. No deaths were recorded from Gila monster or scorpion evenomizations, although in 1962 one death in San Juan County was recorded as "venom poisoning, unknown agent, possible scorpion." Utah statistics follow the natural pattern, indicating that bee stings cause more fatalities than spider or rattlesnake bites. Raid deaths (within minutes) occurred in the majority of bee sting fatalities, resulting from allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), whereas protracted death times of days or months, resulting from infection, followed most spider or unknown insect bites. Only two spider bite fatalities occurred within 1–3 days, suggesting black widow envenomization. Two of the five fatalities from rattlesnake bite resulted from handling the offending snake, one fatality was recorded as a homicide, and one other envenomization occurred in Arizona, with subsequent death in Utah.