Brown Recluse Spider: All You Need to Know for Safety and Awareness

The Brown Recluse Spider is a fascinating yet potentially dangerous creature that’s found in various parts of the United States.

Known for its distinctive appearance and venomous bite, understanding this spider is crucial for homeowners and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

With a violin-shaped marking on its cephalothorax and a unique six-eye pattern, the Brown Recluse distinguishes itself from other common spiders.

Brown Recluse Spider

Found primarily in the central and southern regions of the United States, these spiders prefer dark and sheltered areas such as basements, attics, and woodpiles.

Some key features of the Brown Recluse include:

  • Violin-shaped marking on the cephalothorax
  • Six eyes arranged in pairs
  • Tan to dark brown color

Despite their intimidating presence, Brown Recluse Spiders are generally shy and won’t bite unless threatened.

However, if bitten, it is essential to seek medical attention as their venom can cause serious tissue damage and other complications.

Learning to identify and prevent encounters with these spiders can help keep you and your loved ones safe.

Identifying Brown Recluse Spiders

Physical Features

The Brown Recluse Spider, also known as the fiddleback or violin spider, has several unique physical characteristics that set it apart from other spiders.

They are generally:

  • Tan to dark brown in color
  • Around 9 millimeters in body length
  • Accompanied by long legs

Its overall appearance is quite distinct and allows for easy identification.

Eyes and Markings

Brown Recluse Spiders are unique in the spider world due to their special eye arrangement. They have:

  • Six eyes, instead of the usual eight
  • Arranged in three pairs
  • Positioned in a semicircle, with one pair in front and the other two along the sides

Furthermore, they have a violin-shaped marking on their cephalothorax, with the neck pointing towards the abdomen.

Habitat and Distribution

These spiders are predominantly found in the South and Midwest of the United States.

The typical range of the Brown Recluse Spider extends from Texas to Ohio and from Kentucky to Kansas, as well as many other states in between, like:

  • Oklahoma
  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Nebraska

However, they are not usually found in states up North or out West. They prefer to live in sheltered, dark areas, both indoors and outdoors.

Common habitats include woodpiles, sheds, closets, and basements. In the outdoors, they are known to inhabit funnel weavers, a type of shelter created by certain species of spiders.

Feature Brown Recluse Other Spiders
Eyes Six eyes in three pairs Eight eyes, usually in two rows
Markings Distinct violin-shaped mark on cephalothorax Varies
Range South and Midwest states in the United States Global
Habitats Woodpiles, sheds, closets, basements, and funnel weavers in outdoors Various

Brown Recluse Spider Lifecycle

The Brown Recluse Spider, like all spiders, undergoes a fascinating lifecycle that takes it from a tiny egg to a mature adult.

Egg:

  • The lifecycle begins when a female Brown Recluse lays her eggs. These eggs are typically encased in off-white silken sacs, which the female attaches to secluded, undisturbed places like cracks, crevices, or hidden corners.
  • Each egg sac can contain anywhere from 40 to 50 eggs.

Spiderlings:

  • After a few weeks, the eggs hatch into spiderlings. These tiny spiders are a miniature version of the adults but are much lighter in color.
  • Spiderlings undergo several molts as they grow. With each molt, they shed their exoskeleton, allowing them to increase in size.

Juvenile Spiders:

  • After several molts, the spiderlings transition into the juvenile stage. During this phase, they continue to grow and molt, gradually taking on the more recognizable features of the adult Brown Recluse, including the distinct violin-shaped marking.
  • Juveniles are more active in exploring their surroundings and establishing their territories.

Adult Spiders:

  • Once they reach adulthood, Brown Recluse Spiders have fully developed their characteristic appearance: tan to dark brown coloration, six eyes arranged in pairs, and the violin-shaped marking.
  • Adult females will mate and then lay eggs, continuing the lifecycle. Males, after mating, have a shorter lifespan than females.
  • The typical lifespan of a Brown Recluse Spider ranges from one to two years, though some can live longer under optimal conditions.

Mating:

  • Mating usually occurs from February to September. After mating, females produce several egg sacs over a period of two to three months.
  • It’s worth noting that female Brown Recluse Spiders can store sperm, allowing them to produce more than one egg sac from a single mating session.

Overwintering:

  • In colder regions, Brown Recluse Spiders become less active during the winter months. They seek shelter in protected areas and reduce their metabolic rate, resuming activity when temperatures rise.

Brown Recluse Spider Bites

Symptoms

Brown Recluse Spider bites are usually characterized by an initial slight burning sensation, followed by redness and swelling.

As the venom starts affecting the tissue, a blister may develop, eventually leading to a necrotic ulcer.

Do note that this is not always the case, and many times the bite may simply heal on its own after a while.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

In some cases, especially with children, serious systemic reactions can occur.

Reaction to Venom

The Brown Recluse Spider’s venom can cause various reactions in the human body.

At the site of the bite, a necrotic lesion can form, which results in an open sore with a pale center and red edges.

This spider’s venom also affects red blood cells, leading to potential complications.

First Aid and Treatment

If bitten by a Brown Recluse Spider, immediate first aid measures should be taken:

  1. Clean the wound with soap and water
  2. Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling
  3. Keep the affected limb elevated
  4. Seek medical attention promptly

Medical treatment for Brown Recluse Spider bites may involve pain relievers and NSAIDs to reduce inflammation.

In serious cases, additional medications and wound care might be required.

Please note that Brown Recluse Spiders have a distinct violin-shaped marking and fine hairs on their body.

If you suspect a bite from one, consult a doctor for proper identification and treatment.

Preventing and Managing Infestations

Precautions at Home

To prevent brown recluse spider infestations, take these simple measures in and around your home:

  • Keep areas clean and clutter-free, especially in attics, basements, garages, and closets.
  • Seal any cracks and crevices in your home.
  • Store items in airtight containers or plastic bags.
  • Shake out shoes, clothing, and bedding before use.
  • Wear gloves when handling items stored in dark, undisturbed areas.

Insecticides and Traps

Using insecticides and traps can help manage infestations. Here’s a comparison of their pros and cons:

Some insecticide sprays are specifically designed to target the brown recluse spider, while sticky traps can be placed strategically around your home to catch them.

Remember, if you find an infestation too difficult to handle, consult a professional pest control service.

Comparison to Other Spiders

Physical Differences

The Brown Recluse Spider has a distinct appearance compared to other spiders. Key features include:

  • A dark brown violin shape on the cephalothorax
  • Six eyes arranged in pairs with space separating the pairs, unlike most spiders, which have eight eyes
  • Uniformly colored legs and body, ranging from dark brown to a light yellowish-brown

Another common spider, the tarantula, has noticeable physical differences:

  • Brown to black in color
  • Hairy appearance
  • Over 3 inches long when fully grown
Brown Recluse Spider Tarantula
Color Dark brown to light yellow-brown Brown to black
Eyes 6 eyes in pairs 8 eyes in two rows of four
Size 5/8 inch (1.6 cm) 3+ inches long

Behavioral Differences

Brown Recluse Spiders and other spiders also exhibit different behaviors:

  • Brown Recluse Spiders are typically found in dark, secluded spaces, whereas other spiders may have a wider range of habitats
  • Brown Recluse Spiders lay 1-2 egg masses per year, which hatch into spiderlings after 24-36 days
  • They usually avoid human interaction and only bite when threatened

In comparison, Tarantulas display the following behaviors:

  • Most tarantulas are not aggressive and will only bite as a last resort
  • Some tarantula species are more active during the day, while others hunt at night
  • Tarantulas can have a lifespan of up to 25 years in captivity

In terms of capturing prey, both spiders typically use venom, but the effects of their bites differ:

  • Brown Recluse Spiders have venom that can cause significant tissue damage in severe cases
  • A Tarantula bite, while painful, is not usually dangerous to humans and is often compared to a bee sting for most species
Possibly Brown Recluse

Myths and Misconceptions about the Brown Recluse Spider

The Brown Recluse Spider, with its distinctive appearance and venomous bite, has been the subject of numerous myths and misconceptions over the years.

Myth: Brown Recluse Spiders are aggressive and frequently bite humans.

Truth: These spiders are reclusive by nature and typically only bite when threatened or trapped against the skin.

Myth: Brown Recluse Spiders are found all over the United States.

Truth: While they have a broad range, they are primarily found in the South and Midwest of the U.S. Many reported sightings in other areas are often misidentifications of other spider species.

Myth: The bite of a Brown Recluse always leads to severe necrosis and complications.

Truth: While their venom can cause tissue damage, not all bites result in severe reactions. Many bites heal without complications, though it’s always essential to seek medical attention if bitten.

Myth: Brown Recluse Spiders are large and easily noticeable.

Truth: These spiders are relatively small, with adults measuring about 9 millimeters in body length. Their violin-shaped marking is a more reliable identification feature.

Myth: All brown spiders with a violin-shaped marking are Brown Recluse Spiders.

Truth: There are several spider species with similar markings. Proper identification, considering other features like the unique six-eye arrangement, is crucial.

Conclusion

The Brown Recluse Spider, with its distinctive violin-shaped marking and unique six-eye arrangement, is a notable inhabitant of the central and southern United States.

While their preference for dark, secluded spaces often keeps them out of sight, it’s essential to recognize them due to the potential severity of their bites.

Though they are generally shy and avoid human interaction, caution is advised.

By understanding their habitat, appearance, and behavior, we can coexist safely with these fascinating arachnids.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about brown recluse spiders.

Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Crevice Weaver Spiders

recluse or wolf spiders?
Location: Las Vegas nevada
November 21, 2010 10:05 am
I seen many spiders around my home when since my family and I moved in two years ago. My husband thought they were wolf spiders and told me not to worry so I wasn’t to concerned about them.

Recently I’ve seen pictures of both the recluse and wolf spiders and now I’m confused as to what mine are.
I’m concerned for the safety of my kids since there are such a large number of them.

I try to grab my camera every time I see an interesting or scary bug. I’ve got pictures of different spiders, they might not even be the same species.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Signature: Thank You (your bug-a-phobic friend) Emm

Male Crevice Weaver Spider, not Recluse Spider?

Dear Emm,
Only one of the spider images you attached is a Recluse Spider, and since the quality of that image is different, we are surmising that perhaps you didn’t even take that photo, though your email does not indicate that.  We will attempt to identify your other spiders.

Update/Correction
Hi again Emm,
Now we are having second thoughts.  We believe all of your spiders Crevice Weaver spiders in the genus
Kukulcania, possibly the Southern House Spider, Kukulcania hibernalis.

The lighter colored one with the longer legs looks just like a male Southern House Spider posted to BugGuide.  The other specimens look like females that are posted to BugGuide.  We would encourage anyone reading to confirm or correct this identification.

Female Crevice Weaver Spider, we believe

Eric Eaton Concurs
Hi, Daniel:
… Well, it is definitely a species of Kukulcania, but I don’t think that species (K. hibernalis) ranges into Nevada.  Likely a different species.
Eric

Update from Emm
I took all the photo’s myself. The first photo was of a spider that was inside my home. I took that picture after putting the spider inside a plastic container, that’s why the quality looks different. the other spiders were all outside and  I took the photo’s from a distance.

I wasn’t aware that I could identify the spiders by their eye configurations. next time I’ll know where to point the camera. I read that recluse spiders don’t have fine hairs on their legs and it’s easy to see that there is hair on the legs of my spider which leaves me to believe that you correctly identified mine to be house spiders.

I know now not to do an image search to help me identify insects. the results were very misinforming

I appreciate all your help.  If you’re interested I have photo’s of other insects, most of the pictures are in good quality. the photo’s are of aphids, a June beetle, an adult and a juvenile praying mantis, a male carpenter bee and a beetle. I’m unaware of the exact species but it’s bigger than my hand.

I took pictures of it from where it was when I first seen it and then took more pictures of it while it was in a container. .  if you’d like to see them let me know. I’m not a photographer but I think some of them are good shots

Thank You for all your help; Emm
p.s.  All of the bugs that I’ve captured were taken away from my house and set free. I don’t kill them.

Letter 2 – Brown Recluse Spider

Subject: Spider identification
Location: Missouri
May 19, 2017 7:59 am
Hello,
Any chance you can help identify this spider?
Thanks,
Signature: Ryan

Brown Recluse Spider

Dear Ryan,
The shape of this spider sure looks like the shape of the Brown Recluse Spider,
Loxosceles reclusa, and sure enough when we enlarged and lightened the image, we could make out the distinctive “violin” marking on the cephalothorax.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison. 

According to BugGuide:  “Caution: This spider is venomous and can harm people, though large numbers of BRS are sometimes found in close proximity to people w/o their getting bitten. (2The Brown Recluse is very shy and nocturnal, therefore most likely encountered at night when it is foraging for food. During the day the brown recluse hides in secluded places. 

An interesting fact is the brown recluse cannot bite through clothing because of its small fangs.  Most brown recluse bites result in only a small red mark and heal without serious complications.  The bite of the brown recluse is usually painless and many go unnoticed for as long as 2 to 8 hours or the victim may feel a stinging sensation later followed by intense pain.

A small white blister develops at the site of the bite, followed by swelling of the area. This swollen area enlarges and becomes red. The site becomes painful and hard to the touch. A necrotic lesion develops and the affected tissue dies and slowly sloughs away exposing the underling tissue.

This necrotic ulcer may persist for several months and heals slowly, leaving a sunken area of scar tissue.   It is exceedingly hard for a physician to correctly diagnose a “brown recluse bite” based simply on the wound characteristics.  In very rare cases, the bite may result in a systemic reaction accompanied by fever, chills, dizziness, rash or vomiting.”

Thanks for the reply, that’s what I feared!

Letter 3 – Brown Recluse Spider (Bite)

These photos were received by me via e-mail to alert people to the danger of its bite. You may not be able to show the reaction on your website but you could alert everyone to be extremely cautious.
Jill Allford living in southwestern Missouri.

Thank you Jill,
We recently received the identical photos from another reader. The Brown Recluse bite causes the tissue around the bite to die leaving a horrible scar. We will build a new page devoted specifically to bites thanks to your letter.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Google Hit: "Small bug with pincers"

 

Brown Recluse -like spiders
Will you have a page dedicated to the brown recluse anytime soon? I used to live in Moses Lake, WA where we had many spiders that looked similar to both the Brown Recluse and the common Wolf spider but I can’t tell them apart. My grandmother was bit by a recluse somewhere in the vicinity and I can’t tell which spiders are which! Now I’ve moved to Edmonds (just north of Seattle) and I recently found another spider similar to our Wolf spiders, but it was slimmer and held it’s front legs in a tighter, more predatory manner (though it could have been a "defensive" manner cause I had tried to squish him twice and failed). Any pictures and size approximations would be wonderful. I would also like to tell you that you have an extremely useful site. It happened to be the 3rd hit on Google for "Small bug with pincers" when I was searching for a pseudoscorpid that I had just found. Oh, and my grandmother is ok, by the way! She was bit on the scalp, and was noticing that her heartbeat had sped up and she was losing mobility in part of her face and went in to see the doctor within 3 days of being bit. The doctor was the one who classified the bite. — Thanks much!
Megan

Hi Megan,
We cannot be comprehensive. We post images and identification sent in by our readers. We will post a Brown Recluse photo as soon as we get one. Glad your grandmother is OK. Because we print our readers’ letters verbatim, the search engines find our site based on layman’s terms, and not scientific terms, which is why we get so many site hits.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

10 thoughts on “Brown Recluse Spider: All You Need to Know for Safety and Awareness”

  1. My wife and I were doing some research on Brown spider bites, and while this necrotic effect is sometimes seen with their bite, medical professionals haven’t been able to directly link the effect to the venom. They have, however, found large amounts of MRSA bacteria in them, which can cause large-scale infections and similar effects if left untreated.

    The bacteria is common on many people’s skin, and under fingernails. The bite of the Browns spider is extremely itchy (as my wife can attest, as she’s been bitten). Some have theorized that instead of the bite causing this effect, people scratch at the itchy bite, pushing MRSA bacteria into the open bite holes, beginning an infection. Unknowing medical professionals treat it as a venomous bite rather than a bacterial infection, and it gets out of control, killing the affected flesh.

    So, the first thing I would do if bitten: wash hands and under the fingernails, don’t scratch at the bite, and if it does begin to change color or grow larger (beyond a small red bite-bump), see your doctor and in addition to letting them know about the bite, insist that they check for bacterial infection as well.

    Just a thought. These spiders might not be as dangerous as advertised! 🙂

    Reply
    • I would definitely put stock in the idea that large scale infections are bacteria related and not just the result of venom.
      Having grown up in an older home in north east Arkansas, brown recluses were just a way of life. Every since I can remember it was a common thing to find them in your shoes, crawling on your clothes in the closet, in bed with you, or just doing a little dance up your arm. My parents and I were fairly frequently bitten, but it never amounted to anything more than a very itchy welt. If it happened during sleep, generally the only evidence was a bite mark (varying degrees of size and redness). Interestingly, if it ever happened during sleep, there was rarely any itchiness. Wouldn’t have believed it was a recluse if it weren’t for the dead one under the sheet, poor little fellow must have been crushed.
      My husband’s childhood home was also infested with them, FAR more than my home. In one day he caught over 30 of varying sizes on 3 different glue pads in his bathroom alone. Again, he was no doubt bitten several times and no severe necrosis was the result.
      Not a spider I’m just thrilled to see, but I think we have a lot more to learn about them.

      Reply
    • I would definitely put stock in the idea that large scale infections are bacteria related and not just the result of venom.
      Having grown up in an older home in north east Arkansas, brown recluses were just a way of life. Every since I can remember it was a common thing to find them in your shoes, crawling on your clothes in the closet, in bed with you, or just doing a little dance up your arm. My parents and I were fairly frequently bitten, but it never amounted to anything more than a very itchy welt. If it happened during sleep, generally the only evidence was a bite mark (varying degrees of size and redness). Interestingly, if it ever happened during sleep, there was rarely any itchiness. Wouldn’t have believed it was a recluse if it weren’t for the dead one under the sheet, poor little fellow must have been crushed.
      My husband’s childhood home was also infested with them, FAR more than my home. In one day he caught over 30 of varying sizes on 3 different glue pads in his bathroom alone. Again, he was no doubt bitten several times and no severe necrosis was the result.
      Not a spider I’m just thrilled to see, but I think we have a lot more to learn about them.

      Reply
  2. Ok a Brown recluse Spider. AKA The Fiddle Back Spider
    1. Has a fiddle on its back. Very easily seen and is unmistakably a fiddle

    2. Are small and reclusive. You won’t see one crawling around the outside of your house

    3. The Brown recluse Spider is NOT native to the southwest.

    So, relax more than likely you will see a Wolf, Grass or Crevice spiders any where in Las Vegas. And due to the fact that they all look very much alike, they are all harmless.
    Black Widows, are the other common spider in the Vegas Valley

    Reply
  3. Ok a Brown recluse Spider. AKA The Fiddle Back Spider
    1. Has a fiddle on its back. Very easily seen and is unmistakably a fiddle

    2. Are small and reclusive. You won’t see one crawling around the outside of your house

    3. The Brown recluse Spider is NOT native to the southwest.

    So, relax more than likely you will see a Wolf, Grass or Crevice spiders any where in Las Vegas. And due to the fact that they all look very much alike, they are all harmless.
    Black Widows, are the other common spider in the Vegas Valley

    Reply
  4. We live in OK. When we opened our pool this year it has lots of these strange looking creatures living in it. The back half or two thirds look like a long fish or goby, the front has six legs (three on each side) and its mouth has terrifying and effective pinchers.
    The creature can actually crawl on land for a short time. Its color makes it look like a native fish…difficult to see in the water. Can you tell me what this is?
    Thanks

    Reply
  5. We live in OK. When we opened our pool this year it has lots of these strange looking creatures living in it. The back half or two thirds look like a long fish or goby, the front has six legs (three on each side) and its mouth has terrifying and effective pinchers.
    The creature can actually crawl on land for a short time. Its color makes it look like a native fish…difficult to see in the water. Can you tell me what this is?
    Thanks

    Reply
  6. I live in Reno/Sun valley Nevada. And the other day in Sun valley I came across a big spider that had long tentacles and it was light brown and hair on it’s legs with a bit of a long body frame. The legs where very thin and it was hanging or sitting upside down on the ceiling of our screened in front porch. What kind of spider could this have been?

    Reply

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