What You Should Know about the Brown Recluse Spider

General Information

The Brown Recluse spider is a nocturnal spider that is native to the United States. It is found primarily in the central mid-western states, predominantly in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri.

As you can see in the map below they cover quite a few more states and from the comments below you'll learn that they have been found even farther away.

Dark area shows region the Brown Recluse can be found
Dark area shows region the Brown Recluse can be found
Notice the Violin shape
Notice the Violin shape
Closeup of the Violin and 3 pairs of eyes
Closeup of the Violin and 3 pairs of eyes

Identification of the Brown Recluse

The Brown Recluse, also known as the Violin Spider, is brown (fancy that!) and has a body length of 8-12 mm with a total length with legs stretched of 45 mm. Their most distinctive feature is the dark violin shape on their back although it's less noticeable on the younger spiders.

One interesting thing to note, is that most U.S. spiders have 8 eyes (2 rows of 4) where the Brown Recluse only has 6 (3 pairs). I don't know about you, but I don't plan to get close enough to count his eyeballs!

This spider is often mis-identified since there are other spiders with dark markings that can look like a violin (particularly when you're scared, it's dark, etc).  There are also a lot of other brown spiders.

My advice....if it's a spider, leave it alone.


Their Habitat

The Brown Recluse, being a recluse, likes to hide/live in dark spots, particularly in garages, cellars, old clothes, shoes, vents, cardboard boxes, furniture, corners and cracks.

Basically, almost anywhere out of the way in places not disturbed much.

Brown Recluse Bite (oh my gawd)
Brown Recluse Bite (oh my gawd)

The Venomous Bite

The Brown Recluse is known to do most of its biting in the Spring and Summer.

  • 38% of the people bitten get bitten while they sleep, usually by rolling over onto one
  • 32% of the people bitten get bitten while putting on shoes or clothing that has one hiding in it
  • 60% of those bitten see the spider and only 13% can identify the species

The spider is not aggressive.  They only bite when being threatened or accidently touched. 

Initially, most are unaware of the bite, but often develop symptoms a few hours later.  The general symptoms are:  chills, fever, nausea, itching, restlessness, vomiting.

The area of the bite can get 1-3 inches and take several months to heal leaving an ugly scar.


Brown Recluse Bite


How To Prevent Being Bitten by a Brown Recluse

There are several things you can do to lessen your chances of being bitten by a Brown Recluse spider. These things will actually help you decrease the chances of being bitten by other insects as well.

  • Remember what I said earlier?  If it looks like a spider stay away from it!  Seems simple enough, right?
  • Move your bed away from the wall. They will be less likely to get onto the bed from the walls.
  • Remove the bed skirt and all items from under the bed. You want the only way for anything to get on the bed is from the four legs.
  • Shake off your clothing and shoes before putting them on.
  • Don't leave clothing or bedding on the floor.
  • Store unused items in sealed plastic containers. Stores run them on sale all the time. Buy a few at a time until you have everything neatly stored in them. Get away from storing things in cardboard boxes.
  • Routinely spray around your house. Shop around for prices. If you're comfortable doing it yourself there are lots of places online to get the necessary equipment and chemicals and save yourself some money.


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Comments 25 comments

Pat Merewether profile image

Pat Merewether 8 years ago from Michigan

Thank you for sharing this! I have relatives in oklahoma and tennessee and this is one part of visits that i dread! I'm kind of an arachnaphobe anyway.

So, when I visit TN this Christmas I'll sleep in my clothes, in a hammock with the lights on and only wear flip-flops - then maybe i can relax! lol.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas Author

After you see what their bite can do, it does make you think about just slipping on your shoes or picking up clothing off the floor.

Thanks for the comment and I hope you enjoy TN! I can picture you showing up at your relatives with your hammock insisting you leave the lights on! LOL

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

I have heard of rare incidents in our part of the country (central California). Your map indicates a lighter population here, and the reported bites are rather rare which might make it even more dangerouse because many people are unaware of the threat.

Good information.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas Author

I agree Rochelle! A good rule of thumb is to assume they could be anywhere and just think before putting on shoes or picking up things from the floor. The picture of the wound is enough to make me be more careful. Thanks for stopping by!

Robbin Robinson 7 years ago

I've been bitten by a brown recluse and it is a very long painful experience. I finally recovered after about 8 weeks, but I was sick all of those 8 weeks and it hurt very badly. If you even suspect that you've been bitten I recommend that you go to the Dr. right away and get them to give you some antibiotics to start taking because it gets bad no matter what you do. So basically it's just trying to manage how bad it really gets.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

OMG, Robbin! 8 weeks of pain! I've known people (through friends) that have gotten bitten, but I had never had someone get me a first person account of how bad it was. Thanks for adding your comment so that others know how bad it is and how important it is to seek medical treatment ASAP.

ralwus 7 years ago

That map is wrong. We have them too, just 1 hour south of Lake Erie in Ohio. A young man who works in a store next to my wife's was bitten last week by one and has a terrible bite and missed work for days.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

You know, ralwus, that's what I hate about maps, but it wouldn't take much for one spider to get packed into a box of clothes and someone move across country for him to end up somewhere else. It's a wonder they aren't everywhere. I hate to hear about your friend. They are awful!

ralwus 7 years ago

I've always hated spiders. My wife told me about the young guy and I was thinking about it and thought I might find a hubber that wrote about them. I was right. LOL Almost any subject is on here. kewl It had to be yu! haha

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

You're right, ralwus!  There is probably a hub about everything you want to know!  Ryan Hupner requested that I write one about them.  He periodically approaches different hubbers asking them to write on a specific topic.  I love a good challenge like that.

Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

Good hub KCC...When we lived in Tenn. .....I noticed people with pits in their arms...neck and other places on their bodies. I asked a friend who was born and riased there about it and he said it was from brown recluse spider bites. I really kept an eye out for spiders after that.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

It does make you think about them, doesn't it, Tom? I'm not a big fan of hunks of flesh gone either!

Connie Smith profile image

Connie Smith 7 years ago from Tampa Bay, Florida

yes, we have them here in southwestern Ohio. One of my friend's got biten on her BOOB. The doctor says, "do you want to keep your breast?" Well, hell, yeah. It also took her about 8 weeks to get over it. Still, that is the only time I ever heard about it there.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Sounds like they're definitely ootching northward! I can't imagine having one there! Ouch!

ralwus 7 years ago

They have always been here KCC. They are seldom seen but here in hiding, dark places and woodpiles, attics. I kill every one I find.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

I can honestly say I've never seen one and I've lived in Texas all my life. I may have killed one and not even known it though, because I kill all of them I see as well. I know DEAD ones won't bite me. :)

stephanie mclain profile image

stephanie mclain 7 years ago from Texas

My husband and I are from Texas so we are used to critters, but the brown recluse isn't something to mess around with.

We are currently stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. When we moved into our place here our neighbors downstairs told us about the brown recluse problem (infestation is what they said! :( ) I didn't think about it again for months. Then it started getting hotter outside and I saw one on the ceiling while I was showering. Scared the hell out of me. I killed it and kept going. Then we saw 3 more in our house that same day. We've had this place sprayed, bombed, and booby trapped (glue traps) and they are still everywhere. I have those glue traps in every corner of my house. There are probably 20 traps in this house and every one of them has at least 2 of those spiders on it. I took down curtains, dust ruffle, cleaned out closets. EVERYTHING is off the floor in our house. I just don't know how to get rid of them. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Needless to say I'm more than a little worried about these things. My downstairs neighbor was bit right before they got orders to a new post. She was bit on her chest while sleeping. It caused her a lot of pain also.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Stephanie, your story gives me the heebie-jeebies. I did a little more research after your comment and I found this article that you may have seen, but it specifically talks about infestations in Kentucky. http://www.ca.uky.edu/ENTOMOLOGY/entfacts/ef631.as...

You're evidently in the military, so I assume your housing options are limited, but I'd move if possible. Outside of moving, I know you said you've had the house sprayed, and I'm assuming you mean professionally. If not, then definitely hire a professional. Most of them have some sort of guarantee. If you see another after they've sprayed, keep bringing them back out. It's really nothing to mess around with.

stephanie mclain profile image

stephanie mclain 7 years ago from Texas

Thanks for the info! :) Heebie jeebies indeed! If you look at that article again and see the glue trap, I have a few glue traps that are filled like that with these little critters.

We have had this place sprayed professionally several times since moving in. The post housing says that they are very common in this area, but when my neighbors saw our glue traps they agreed that none of them have as bad a problem as we do.

We were going to move, but we are leaving for Texas in a few months and I'm happy to say, we'll never come back here. lol

Thanks for your help. I'm going to call housing again on Monday and arrange for them to bomb the house again. :)

"What doesn't kill us makes us stronger!" :)

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

I just can't even imagine how horrible that must be. Glad you're heading back to Texas.

Lake of the Ozarks Vacation Rentals 7 years ago

Living in Missouri I have not seen a brown recluse, that I know of. But have known several people that have been bitten by the awful spider. It is not a fun experience and I hope to never see one up close and personal.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Me too, Lake of the Ozarks! Thanks for stopping by!

Alex 5 years ago

I am reallyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy scared because I thought I saw one in my room and now I'm in my parent's room crying even though I'm 16... this was useful but what keeps me crying is that the bites looke horrible! I thunk I'm going to die! I'm soooooo scared

Mark 4 years ago

These things already had me worried before reading this. Now I am freaking out. I am 28 and have seen quite a bit of these in my house. I live in Kansas City, Missouri and my friend I work with has an infestation. He got bitten 2 times. I am really freaking out.

beckersblonde 2 years ago

Certain housing on Fort Campbell does have an infestation problem. Though sadly they will never admit to it. My son and daughter n law have been living a nightmare. They are finding 10-15 live recluses a day. I wish more people would take a stand and make them be accountable.

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