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How to Identify Brown Recluse Spiders

Updated on January 8, 2017

Brown Recluse Identification

Brown recluse identification is important because the spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) possess a bite that can be a serious threat to humans. It's possible that you may have them living in your basement. Brown recluse identification is essential! Global warming has increased this animal's range to the point where it may be found anywhere in the lower 48 states. It lives in dark corners, coming out to hunt during the night, and this is often when people get bitten. The bite is initially painless, but in some cases the venom triggers a necrotizing process that may destroy large amounts of tissue. The bite is rarely fatal but it may result in permanent scarring.

Not every spider is a brown recluse, so please don't go around killing every brown spider you can find! Learn to identify brown recluse spiders and you'll know exactly what you're dealing with.

*WARNING* Some images in this guide may be disturbing to some readers!

Identify Brown Recluse Spiders: The Violin Mark

Look closely at the back of this spider -- can you see the dark violin? That's the tell-tale identification mark of the brown recluse spider. Be aware, though, that immature forms of the brown recluse may look quite different.

Spiders in the genus Loxosceles, which includes the brown recluse (scientific name: Loxosceles reclusa), look very much the same, though a specialist can tell them apart with ease.

What To Do If You Have Brown Recluses in Your House

First of all, don't panic! You may have many of these spiders in your house and never see one or suffer a bite. In 2001, more than 2,000 brown recluse spiders were removed from a heavily infested home in Kansas, but no one in the home ever even knew they were there, or had been bitten -- as far as they knew. Brown recluses have short fangs and would rather run than fight. The live in dark corners and come out only at night.

One good solution to a brown recluse infestation is to put out sticky traps. These traps are non-toxic and highly effective.

Sticky Traps Catch Brown Recluse Spiders

30 Brown Recluse Spider Traps (non-toxic)
30 Brown Recluse Spider Traps (non-toxic)

Sticky traps are an effective way to control brown recluse spiders and other undesirable critters in your basement or garage. You do nothing but put them out -- no setting or baiting. It's an affordable, easy solution.


Brown Recluse Identification: Close-Up Showing Violin Markings

Brown Recluse Identification -- How Big Is the Brown Recluse?

Here's a brown recluse next to a penny for scale

As you can see, the brown recluse is not a huge spider -- but it is good-sized, espcially compared to all of the other spiders that typically occur in your house.

Brown Recluse Identification -- Fangs of a Spider

By Schtone (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Here's Where Recluse Spiders Live

Ranges of the various kinds of recluse spiders

This map shows the general range of spiders of the Loxosceles genus in North America -- but due to climate change, the brown recluse range is expanding to the north. Spiders are now found commonly as far north as Chicago and beyond. This is true, by the way, for many other animals and insects, some of which you may wish would stay put where they are. Bed bugs, for example, are just one of the many little critters heading your way!

What Is a A Spider? - Brown Recluse Identification vs Bed Bugs

This illustration shows some basic differences between an insect, like a bed bug, and arachnids, like the brown recluse spider.

(1) The bed bug has antennae, which are sensory organs that help the insect find food and avoid predators. They are often much more useful than eyes to the insect. The spider, on the other hand, relies largely on eyesight -- they have as many as four pairs of eyes, and use them! It's very hard to sneak up on a spider.

(2) Insects have three sections: head, thorax, and abdomen, while the spider has two segments; the head and thorax are combined into the "cephalothorax."

(3) The Insect has reproductive organs in the tip of the abdomen. The spider does too, but in addition it has a pair of "spinnerets," organs that spin silk. This process is worthy of a book in itself -- turning liquid into tough silk to catch prey, and then "eating" the web to recycle the material for a future web. Amazing!

By Uploader, CDC (Modified by uploader; originally from CDC) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Brown Recluse Identification -- the Bite of the Brown Recluse - ** warning! graphic image! **

Most brown recluse bites do not result in the large, necrotic wounds that will find all over the internet -- those are the worst-case scenarios! Still, it does happen, and this bite is one of the less-disturbing examples. The venom destroys living tissue over the course of several weeks, and when the damage finally stops you may be left with a disfiguring scar. Take these bites seriously! If you think you may have a brown recluse bite, GO SEE A DOCTOR. In some cases, infections can be fatal.

What to Do If You're Bitten by a Brown Recluse

You're bitten by a brown recluse -- what do you do? Freak out? Panic? Run around the room?

Probably not, because you won't even know you've been bitten. The bite of the brown recluse, unlike those of other venomous animals, is typically painless. The fangs are small, and you are likely to be asleep, since these spiders don't bite unless they're pressed against your skin and trapped, as they could be when they get tangled up in your bedsheets.

So the bite isn't painful, and here's some more good news -- recent studies are showing that the majority of brown recluse bites never develop into a serious or even noticeable situation, but simply fade away as the venom gets eliminated from your body. In addition, some terrible-looking bites, with huge wounds that don't seem to heal, may really be due to other causes, such as diabetes or staph infections. That may be cold comfort for you if you're dealing with a serious wound, but from the spider's point of view, it's highly relevant: don't blame these little guys for every bad situation!

But if you do have a bite you know about, get an ice pack on it to minimize swelling and slow the spread of venom. Keep the spider to show the doctors, and head straight to the emergency room!

Have You Ever Found a Brown Recluse?

Have you ever encountered a brown recluse spider?

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The Black Widow Spider - Learn about bite symptoms, life history, and control of this spider

The black widow spider lives in dark corners in your garage or basement. Their tangled webs snare the passing insects on which they feed. Click here to learn more about the black widow!

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    • amosvee profile image

      amosvee 4 years ago

      I allow a couple of spiders to live in the window well of my basement bathroom. They stay in their area and take care of the sowbugs and earwigs that crawl in. But now I think I had better take a closer look at them!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I've never seen one where I live. If I do spot one outside it will live but indoors, well, we'll see! Angel blessed**

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      I am always wary of finding one ~ I feel surely there will be That day! I will not have a chance to identify it for sure, because he will not have a chance! Great, creepy, lens! Actually, I like getting more info on them, as I do like to keep things "natural," and not use pesticides inside or outside, so I feel I am tempting fate! B : )

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 5 years ago

      Don't know whether we have them in the UK...hopefully not!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 5 years ago

      Ewwww! I really hate spiders. Good to know about the brown recluse spider though.

    • profile image

      Sojourn 5 years ago

      Brown recluse can exist here in Arizona and we found a couple of them early on shortly after our house was built. Fortunately, we haven't seen them in several years now. They've always creeped me out! Learned a lot on your lens, though. Nice job!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      fortunately we don't have these in our country, although after reading through your lens i will be checking all 4 walls before I sleep lol, i have heard of an electronic plugin device that emits a loud noise which scares spiders away (out of our hearing range), and also send a noise down the internal mains wiring of the house to keep creepys out, i wonder if theres any sort of deterrent that has been developed for the recluse spider

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      these are in my home im dead


    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I am afraid that with the warming trend in the US, they will come further north. I break out in a rash from any spider bite, so am afraid. (Actually afraid of all of them). Great lens though; very thorough job --even if it makes me itch.