Brown Recluse Infestation Leads to Lawsuits, Foreclosure


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Imagine moving into a new home and having a spider problem. It's a pest problem that many new homeowners have probably had to deal with. Now imagine that the spiders are some of the most dangerous in the U.S., and that no amount of pest control can rid the house of them.

It's a story that seems to be taken directly from the 1990 movie Arachnophobia. In the movie, Jeff Daniels and John Goodman battle an unthinkable infestation of deadly spiders, eventually solving the problem using fire. In real life, however, a family living in a St. Louis, Missouri suburb opted not to burn down their new house and were instead forced from their home.

According to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report Brian and Susan Trost bought a 2,400-square-foot home in Weldon Spring, Missouri in 2007. They soon found out that the house was infested with at least 4,500 brown recluse spiders.

The Trost family's description of the infestation reads like a nightmare for arachnophobes. The Trosts found webs throughout the house in blinds, air registers, the pantry, the fireplace, and other locations. The spiders themselves were encountered frequently on floors and behind wallpaper. Just like in the movie, Susan Trost said she once encountered one of the spiders while showering.

The family tried everything they could to rid the house of the spiders, starting with weekly pest control treatments. This eventually progressed to removing drywall and insulation for more thorough pesticide treatments.

None of the treatments worked for good and the family was forced to abandon the house. In 2008 the Trosts filed a claim with their insurance company and filed a lawsuit against the house's previous owners. The Trosts were awarded nearly half a million dollars by a judge, but State Farm appealed the case. The insurance company claimed that the Trosts' insurance policy excludes insects (spiders are not insects) and that spiders do not constitute physical damage to the property.

The house itself was foreclosed on and is currently owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association. After years of legal wrangling the property was finally rid of the spiders last week. A large tent was placed over the property and flooded with cold sulfuryl flouride gas, a procedure that exterminators insist will kill every living thing in the house.