Pest Spotlight: What are Brown Recluse Spiders?

by | Single Family Home

Pest Spotlight: What are Brown Recluse Spiders?

Out of the 20,000 species of spiders that inhabit North America – brown recluse spiders, along with black widows, the hobos, and the yellow sac species – are associated with being dangerous to humans.

You can identify a brown recluse because it has a few unusual features that make it distinguishable from other species; for example, it has only six eyes (the majority of arachnids have eight), with one main, larger pair at its center and two smaller pairs that line the top and the bottom that form a semicircle.

Brown recluse species also have fine, small and silky hairs all over the body sac, without spines on either the body or the legs that are typically characteristic of other species. As its name indicates, brown recluse spiders range from dark brown to a light, creamy or sandy color. 

It can also be distinguished from other spiders because the legs are always lighter than the body, and it never has any stripes of other banded colors on its legs, which sit angled up above its body .

And whether you have a tape measurer or can eyeball the size, typically these arachnid species do not grow larger than half of an inch – with a body less than the size of a dime or a penny.

A brown recluse’s most distinguishing and easily noticeable characteristic is the violin, fiddle or even spatula shape on the center of its body, with the neck of the violin pointing back toward the abdomen. This in itself isn’t enough to identify the spider as a recluse, however, as there are other species with similar markings; but in combination with the other features previously mentioned, it is likely to be a brown recluse.

Similar to its namesake, brown recluse spiders are hardly out in the open, in plain sight or where the sun shines. They like to build their webs in crevices, or places that haven’t been disturbed in order to stay hidden. These include such places like attics, piles of wood, areas behind picture frames, barns – or anything that hasn’t been touched, cleaned or used in a long time, whether those items are shoes, boxes, closets, old tires or drawers. In these areas, they will build funnel-shaped, messy retreat webs that are hard to see or identify. Obviously, keeping clutter to a minimum or dusting and cleaning often offers fewer places for brown recluse spiders to hide.

The good news is that brown recluse spiders will only bite if they feel threatened or are injured; the bad news is that they are filled with venom that is dangerous to humans. Typically, you’ll notice the symptom of a bite right away. They usually appear anywhere from two to six hours after the bite. Around the area of the bite there may be redness, blistering skin, some pain and itching that may take up to months to heal.  Other symptoms may include getting the chills, fever, nausea or sweating.  In worst case scenarios – especially in individuals with weakened immune systems – the body might go into shock that if not treated at once, could be fatal. Regardless, you’ll want to seek medical attention if you have been bitten.

If you want to keep contact with brown recluse spiders to a minimum, you’ll want to be aware of the places aforementioned where they have a tendency to hole up and keep those areas, clean and tidy. Keep clutter to a minimum; move, dust and sweep often, while making sure to inspect your clothing and shoes before putting them on.

To help bar their entry into your home, be sure that your foundation is crevice-free, and remember to inspect your screen for any tears or openings. And remember, if you suspect an infestation or need a glance-over of your home, be sure to contact your pest control professional.


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