Brown Recluse Spiders
- Common Name(s): Brown Recluse, Recluse Spider
- Order: Araneae
- Family: Sicariidae
- Common Species: Loxosceles reclusa
- Commonly Confused With: Fishing Spiders, Southern House Spiders, Spitting Spiders
How to Identify?
Brown recluse spiders possess a tan to dark brown abdomen (back section of a spider), and a cephalothorax (front section of a spider) that is tan or brown and has a fiddle around the eyes that is usually a dark brown to black in color. The legs and abdomen of the brown recluse are one solid color and do not have a pattern on them. The body of a brown recluse spider is approximately .7-1 centimeters in length. One of the best factors for identifying a brown recluse vs. a southern house spider, as they can both have violins on their cephalothorax, is the shape of the eyes. A brown recluse has 6 eyes in a sort of horseshoe shape while the southern house spider has eight eyes all clustered together. The brown recluse eye pattern can lead to some confusion with another spider called a spitting spider, but a spitting spider is heavily patterned and will lack a fiddle shape on their cephalothorax.
Where do they live?
Brown recluse spiders can be found indoors and outdoors. If a person has a brown recluse infestation in their home they will need professional help. If the spider found in the home is actually a recluse there are usually many recluse spiders present. Often times, when inside structures, you will not just have one recluse; there are many all infesting at one time. When inside, as the name “recluse” would imply, these spiders like to stay hidden out of sight. They are not web-dwelling spiders but instead hunt for their prey at night. People typically get bitten by rolling over on the spider in bed or accidentally trapping it inside of a shoe.
What do they eat?
Brown recluse spiders are predators of insects and other arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans, millipedes, etc). They are nocturnal hunting spiders and do not live in a web as many other spiders tend to do.
What do they do?
These spiders are greatly feared because of their necrotic bites. Recluses are one of two medically significant spider genera in the United States (the other genera being widows). They are generally very shy, timid spiders and will not bite unless there is no other option. Most times brown recluse spiders cannot even manage to bite humans. Their fangs are typically small and brittle, but if pressed against flesh (as they would be if rolled on top of or trapped in a shoe by a foot) they can obtain the leverage they need to inflict a bite. Bites are not usually life-threatening, but this does not mean a person should not seek medical attention immediately if bitten. If you think you were bitten by a brown recluse save the specimen and be sure to get it examined. It is not possible for medical professionals to diagnose a bite without seeing the specimen that bit you! There are many diseases/viruses that can mimic the symptoms and necrosis of a brown recluse bite, such as MRSA.
There is actually more than one recluse species in the United States. While the brown recluse is the most common recluse in Georgia, check out the attached link of a distribution map of different Loxosceles species for more information! Additional Recluse Links have also been added for your perusing.
- Here is a CDC link on both the Black Widow and Brown Recluse; please follow the link for even more information! https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/spiders/types.html
Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist
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