Brown Recluse Spiders

mattb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Spiders are a fact of life. You’ll find them even in the most elegant homes. Good thing most spiders found in the US are harmless, even if they bite. However, here in this country there are 4 species of poisonous spiders. Public Enemy Number 1 among them is the brown recluse spider (loxosceles reclusa), which actually made Britannica’s list of 9 of the world’s deadliest spiders! Find out more about this dangerous creature and how to get rid of it.

What does a brown recluse spider look like?

Typically, a brown recluse spider measures 1/3 to 1/2 inch long and is brown or deep yellow in color. Its nicknames — “fiddleback” or “violin” spider — come from the interesting black markings on its thorax, which resemble a violin. The violin pattern is common in adult brown recluses, but some brown recluse spider young do not have this contrasting pigmentation. All of these spiders are a uniform brown color on their abdomen and legs. Another identifying sign is that brown recluse spiders have six eyes, unlike most other US spiders that have eight eyes.

Where is the brown recluse spider found?

This type of spider is usually found in the southeastern and central US states.

They tend to live in dry, quiet places, where they will not be disturbed. Their favorite spots outside are in woodpiles, sheds, barns, or caves, so it's important to wear gloves when working in -- or reaching into these spots -- especially if you live in an area known for having recluse spiders. Inside the home, common hiding places include garages, cellars, closets, HVAC ductwork, in shoes, behind picture frames, under bedding and in and around cardboard boxes. All spiders like cardboard boxes (which remind them of rotting tree bark), so it's a good idea to limit the number of cardboard boxes in your home.

What happens when a brown recluse bites a human?

Brown recluses will bite as a self-defense mechanism when provoked – for example, if you unintentionally touch a spider, or roll over onto one in your sleep. It’s possible that you will react to a brown recluse spider bite with nothing more serious than some minor skin irritation in the area that was bitten.

Approximately half the time, though, these spiders release venom when they bite. In such a case, human reactions range from serious skin irritation (such as lesions, leading to permanent scarring) to flu-like symptoms, burst blood cells, or organ damage. The bite may even prove fatal. The severest reactions occur in small children or adults whose immune system is compromised. Anyone who is bitten by a brown recluse spider should wash the bite thoroughly, apply an icepack, and seek immediate emergency medical attention.

How do I get rid of brown recluse spiders?

If you live in an area of heavy brown recluse spider infestation, here’s how to prevent and get rid of these pests:

  1. Clear your home and yard of clutter and trash. Remove cardboard boxes wherever possible (transfer any stored items to containers made of plastic or other non-cardboard material).

  2. Seal cracks around windows, pipes, etc. to block spiders’ entrance routes. Keep doors and windows closed if brown recluses are in your area.

  3. Check boxes, suitcases, and similar containers before taking them into or out of your house.

  4. Inspect your home regularly, wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and gloves to guard against bites. Carry a flashlight to check dark corners.

  5. Use caution when approaching any of the brown recluse spider habitats mentioned above.

  6. Try vacuuming up any adult spiders and egg sacs that you find.

  7. Spray with insecticide or set glue traps for DIY spider control.

  8. Hire a pest control professional to get rid of serious brown recluse spider infestation.

Updated February 19, 2018.

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