Do Brown Recluse Spiders Jump? Debunking the Myths and Revealing the Truth

Brown recluse spiders, known for their distinctive violin-shaped marking on the cephalothorax, have a reputation for being dangerous to humans due to their venomous bites.

These spiders are typically tan to dark brown, almost an inch in size, and have an unusual feature of six eyes instead of the common eight found in most spiders.

As for their behavior, many people often wonder: do Brown Recluse spiders jump?

Male Brown Recluse Spider

Brown recluse spiders do not have the ability to jump, unlike typical jumping spiders.

While spiders in general have different jumping capabilities, understanding their behavior can help in averting any unnecessary panic or mishandling of these creatures.

Identifying Brown Recluse Spiders

Physical Characteristics

Brown Recluse spiders, also known as Loxosceles reclusa, violin spiders, or fiddleback spiders, have distinctive features.

They exhibit a dark brown violin-shaped marking on their cephalothorax. The spiders are usually a dull grayish brown or yellowish brown in color.

A key characteristic is their unique eye pattern: Six eyes arranged in three pairs. Most spiders have eight eyes in two rows of four.

Habitat and Range

The Brown Recluse spiders inhabit the south, west, and midwest areas of the United States. Their preferred habitats include:

  • Dark areas like under rocks
  • In the bark of dead trees
  • Attics and basements
  • Cupboards and drawers
  • Boxes and bedsheets

Do Brown Recluse Spiders Jump

To summarize, here are some key points to remember about these spiders:

  • Dark brown violin-shaped marking on cephalothorax
  • Six eyes arranged in three pairs
  • Found primarily in south, west, and midwest US
  • Prefers dark, sheltered habitats
  • Known as Loxosceles reclusa, violin spider, or fiddleback spider

Understanding Brown Recluse Behavior

Do Brown Recluse Spiders Jump?

Brown recluse spiders primarily feed on small arthropods like silverfish and crickets.

They do not actively hunt like jumping spiders, instead relying on their excellent camouflage to ambush their prey.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The reproduction and life cycle of brown recluse spiders involves various stages:

  1. Mating: Males approach females and engage in a complex courtship dance.
  2. Egg sacs: Female spiders produce egg sacs that contain multiple eggs.
  3. Spiderlings: Upon hatching, young spiders are called spiderlings and are relatively independent.
  4. Adult spiders

Brown recluse spiders usually have a lifespan of up to two years.

Brown Recluse Spider Bites

Symptoms

Brown recluse spiders are known for their venomous bites, which can lead to significant necrosis.

When bitten, the actual spider bite often goes unnoticed for as long as 4 to 6 hours. Symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite include:

  • Pain and itching
  • Reddish or purple skin discoloration
  • A small, white blister at the bite site

Possibly Brown Recluse

In severe cases, the bite can cause systemic symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain

Treatment

Immediate medical attention is crucial for effectively treating a brown recluse spider bite. Here are a few steps to take:

  1. Clean the bite site: Gently wash the area with soap and water.
  2. Ice and elevate: Apply a cold pack and elevate the limb to reduce swelling.
  3. Seek professional care: Consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Getting prompt treatment can prevent complications and minimize tissue damage.

While home remedies and over-the-counter medications can alleviate pain and itchiness, professional medical care is essential for proper treatment and recovery.

Comparing Other Recluse Spider Species

Black Widow

The Black Widow is another spider species often compared with the brown recluse. Key differences between them are:

  • Black Widow spiders have a shiny black body with a distinctive red hourglass shape on their abdomen.
  • They belong to the Theridiidae family, unlike brown recluses, which are part of the Sicariidae family.
  • Black Widow spiders are venomous but rarely jump.
Immature, female Northern Black Widow

Chilean Recluse

The Chilean Recluse is considered one of the most dangerous spiders due to its potent venom. Comparing it to the brown recluse, we can see that:

  • Chilean Recluse spiders are larger, with a body length of up to 1.6 inches.
  • They have a violin-shaped marking similar to the brown recluse, but it is less distinct.
  • The venom of Chilean Recluses can cause more severe symptoms than that of the brown recluse.

File:Chilean recluse spider (Loxosceles laeta).jpg

Chilean Recluse Spider. Source: SsiltaneCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Desert Recluse

Finally, the Desert Recluse is another species of recluse spiders native to the southwestern United States. Differences from the brown recluse include:

  • They have a paler brown color and are slightly smaller in size.
  • Desert Recluses are usually found in arid environments, while brown recluses prefer indoor, dark spaces.

File:Desert Recluse (Loxosceles deserta).jpg

Desert Recluse Spider. Source: DesertTripCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spider Species Size (Body Length) Color Markings Native Region Venom Potency
Brown Recluse Up to 0.7 inches Tan to dark brown Violin-shaped Central and Eastern United States Moderate
Black Widow 0.5 inches (male) / 0.9 inches (female) Shiny black Red hourglass North America, Australia, South Africa High
Chilean Recluse Up to 1.6 inches Brown Less distinct violin South America High (more potent)
Desert Recluse Slightly smaller than Brown Recluse Pale brown None Southwestern United States Moderate

In summary, the Brown Recluse, Black Widow, Chilean Recluse, and Desert Recluse are all venomous spiders that differ in their size, color, markings, and native regions.

Distinguishing Brown Recluse from Other Spider Types

Jumping Spiders

Jumping spiders are quite different from brown recluse spiders in a few key ways:

  • Vision: Jumping spiders have excellent vision, with eight eyes arranged for a wide field of view, while brown recluse spiders have only six eyes in a unique pattern.
  • Hunting: Jumping spiders are known as active hunters and use their remarkable jumping ability to catch their prey, whereas brown recluses are passive hunters that use their webs to capture prey.

Examples of jumping spiders include the bold jumping spider and the zebra spider.

Zebra Jumping Spider

House Spiders

House spiders, like the common house spider and the American house spider, share some similarities with brown recluse spiders but also have differences:

  • Web: House spiders build webs in various areas of a home, while brown recluse spiders create irregular, loosely organized webs in dark, secluded locations.
  • Vision: House spiders typically have eight eyes, unlike the six eyes found in brown recluse spiders.

Here’s a comparison table of some key features:

Feature Brown Recluse Jumping Spider House Spider
Eyes 6 8 8
Web Irregular None Regular
Hunting Passive Active Passive

So, when distinguishing brown recluse spiders from jumping spiders and house spiders, pay attention to eye arrangement, web structure, and hunting behavior.

Conclusion

The Brown Recluse spider, characterized by its unique violin-shaped marking and six eyes, is often misunderstood.

While many fear its venomous bite, it’s essential to understand that these spiders are passive hunters, preferring to ambush their prey rather than actively pursuing it.

Contrary to popular belief, they do not jump like some other spider species.

Recognizing their distinctive features and habitats can help in proper identification and safe handling, ensuring minimal encounters and potential harm.

Footnotes

  1. Occupational Safety and Health Administration 2 3 4 5
  2. Spider Research – How to Avoid Bites
  3. PubMed Central – Management of Brown Recluse Spider Bites

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 – Unknown Spider NOT a Brown Recluse: Titiotus Species perhaps

Subject: Spider I found in my house
Location: Poway, California
November 17, 2013 10:04 pm
I found this spider in my house and I think it might be a brown recluse. But I live in Poway, California and have heard that there aren’t any brown recluse in San Diego.

So I was hoping you could shed some light on what kind of spider this is. Besides its appearance the only thing else I know about it is that it jumps a lot.
Signature: Doug

Unidentified Spider
Unidentified Spider

Dear Doug,
This is NOT a Brown Recluse.  The pattern on the cephalothorax is reversed.  In the Brown Recluse, the violin shaped marking is dark against a light background. 

While we are uncertain of your spider’s actual identity, we are posting the photo and we hope to have it identified soon.  We are copying Mandy Howe who has agreed to assist us with spider identifications.

Unidentified Spider
Unidentified Spider

Thank you very much for the response Daniel. I really appreciate the info and your help on this. You are correct. This spider definitely does not have a violin shape on its back.

So sorry for being one of the many who buy into the hype about brown recluses and/or brown widows. I look forward to hearing what this little guy really is.
Thanks,
Doug

Update:  Shortly after posting, we discovered this photo of a Titiotus species on BugGuide that looks identical to your spider.  It is classified as a member of the family Tengellidae.  We will wait to hear what Mandy Howe has to say before we create a new category for your spider.

Letter 2 – Possibly Brown Recluse Spider

Subject:  Brown recluse?
Geographic location of the bug:  missouri (Saint Louis)
Date: 09/13/2017
Time: 10:47 PM EDT
Please help! We just moved in to our apartment last month (August) and we think there are brown recluse spiders. So far we have killed about 15. We find most at night, and a few have been stuck in the bathtub or sinks. Almost all stay in dark corners or closets.

They look and move exactly like the brown recluses I’ve seen online, and we haven’t found any webs. They can move pretty quickly but don’t jump. I have attached a pic, I’m not sure you will be able to ID it because it’s pretty blurry! Thank you!
How you want your letter signed —
Katie

Possibly Brown Recluse

Hi Katie,
This image is too blurry to be certain, but the markings and general shape of the spider you sighted are consistent with the appearance of a Brown Recluse.  Based on BugGuide data, you do live in Brown Recluse territory.

Letter 3 – spider identification – Brown Recluse?

I live in Windsor Ontario Canada. Yesterday I found a spider in the carpeted side of my basement. It was underneath a large toy in a corner. I have found this type of spider before in this room.This is also the playroom for my kids (yikes). I will try to get a digital photograph for you.

It is darkish brown but not uniformly. It has some sort of markings on the back which were lighter brown or beige than the rest of the body. I thought it kind of looks like a skull. It was not a huge spider like a wolf spider but I wouldn’t call it small either. The body was bulbous.

The basement is not what I would call wet, but it can be damp down there, with laundry facilities and storage nearby the playroom. Any ideas? I hate to spray because I am terrified of introducing those chemicals into my home, especially with the kids, but what are my options if it is a harmful spider like the brown recluse I’ve been reading about.

Dear Michael,
Not to be an alarmist, but it does sound like you might have a Brown Recluse, Loxosceles reclusa. There is plentiful information online, including this
site which provides the following description of the Brown Recluse:

“Adult brown recluse spiders are soft-bodied, yellowish-tan to dark brown, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and have long, delicate grayish to dark brown legs covered with short, dark hairs. The leg span is about the size of a half dollar.

Distinguishing characteristics are the presence of three pairs of eyes arranged in a semicircle on the forepart of the head and a violin-shaped, dark marking immediately behind the semicircle of eyes with the neck of the violin pointing towards the bulbous abdomen.” Here are a drawing and photo from that site.

Authors

    by
  • 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.

6 thoughts on “Do Brown Recluse Spiders Jump? Debunking the Myths and Revealing the Truth”

  1. I totally overlooked this one, sorry, Daniel! You’re right though, it is a male Titiotus, of family Tengellidae. That genus is confined to California so far, with 16 described species at the moment (though they can’t be told about without a microscope exam). They definitely get mistaken for brown recluses pretty often in CA.

    Reply
  2. Well, I recently had a run in with one of these lovely creatures. Sadly, I ended up smacking the arachnid off my leg and then later realizing: Gee, that was a spider. Somehow, I didn’t kill it right away, but knocked a leg off and then, I assume, broke the others. It was sad to see that either the spider was trying to wave goodbye or deathcrawl to bite me. Regardless, he went down the drain. Location: Fayetteville, Tennessee

    Reply
  3. I’ve recently captivated a little friend that is exactly this spider. I’m assuming that it’s a female based on such, that “she” is very large. For the time being I’ve named her Freja (fre-hah) and I’ve given her a decent sized tank bedded with potting soil, a fake vine to hide in, also a small dish with a thin layer of water for drinking if she does so desire, and a small tree like structure. With that in mind “She” has 6 small cricket friends to play tag with in the mean time. I hope to learn mpre about my new pet in time. =)

    Reply
  4. So I’m known as my family bug expert (though am in no way an actual expert – I just don’t kill bugs unless necessary whereas my family slaughters indiscriminately lol) – my sister sent me a picture of a spider she had killed worried it was a Brown Recluse and since we live in Tennessee odds were good – but it was missing the violin marking and had some other slight differences. I found this article and after looking at various websites with good pictures I determined it was most likely a female titiotus tengellide – just thought ya’ll might like to know since it seems to be believed that the spider is native to California and any further range appears unknown.

    Reply
  5. I have found 4 brown recluse spiders in my basement I did get the first one confirmed by a pest control person should I be alarmed. I live in the basement of my mother’s home.

    Reply

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