First off, I don’t care for spiders.. I find them mostly creepy. I will take a non poisonous snake any day over a daddy long legs or any type of non poisonous spider.. ugh.
I was going to write about how evil the brown recluse is.. but then in my research found that where I live.. scientifically the recluses don’t exist. So I wanted to cover the fear, myth and hype over this spider and end on a cautionary note. These are dangerous spiders.. but only if you live in the area they are in. My best suggestion if you have to be in the woods or do any type of yard work near woods, wear lots of protective clothing, if you have to go into the attic, turn on the light 30 minutes prior to going up there. They love the dark and will scramble away from light.
So without further ado.. here’s my research.
How to id them:
The loxosceles reclusa, also known as brown recluse spider or violin spider, is a small-sized arachnid of approximately 7-12mm (1/4″ – 1/2′) long. The color of the brown recluse spider is generally brown. Its body shows a peculiar cephalothorax with a dark brown violin-shaped spot; the legs are light brown and the oval-shaped abdomen is dark brown, yellow, or greenish yellow. The most important characteristic is the presence of 3 pairs of eyes in the cephalothorax. Normally, all spiders have 4 pairs (8 altogether).
More info on Identifying them
(Taken from http://spiders.ucr.edu/recluseid.html)
A brown recluse has a dark brown violin shape on the cephalothorax (the portion of the body to which the legs attach). The neck of the violin points backward toward the abdomen. However, what you should look at instead is the eye pattern of 6 eyes in pairs with a space separating the pairs. Most spiders have 8 eyes in two rows of four.
Here are the things that describe a brown recluse spider (but some other spiders have a few of these characters too). There are pictures below to illustrate what is NOT a recluse.
- Six eyes arranged in pairs, with one pair in front and a pair on either side.
- A dark violin shape on the cephalothorax.
- Uniformly light-colored legs – no stripes, no bands
- Uniformly colored abdomen which can vary from cream to dark brown depending on what it has eaten, however, it will never have two colors of pigment at the same time. (The little discoloration on the spider above left is the heart which can be seen through the thin skin.)
- No spines on the legs, only fine hairs
- Recluses make small retreat webs behind objects, never out in the open.
- It is about 3/8 of an inch in body length.
Where to find them:
The brown recluse spider, as well as other species of Loxosceles, is a native of the USA. Nevertheless, other non-native species can be found in a small number of areas in the country, such as the Loxosceles spider rufescens or Mediterranean recluse.
Brown recluse spiders are mainly found in the central Midwestern states southward to the Gulf of Mexico, especially in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.
Important: these spiders can and do spread, travelling inside boxes and packaging.
Inside homes, the brown recluse spider can be found in any of the following places: dark spots within baths, dormitories, garages, closets and cellars, vent and heating conducts, seldom used clothes/shoes. They can nest in stored clothes, old books, boxes, furniture, toys, carpets, coatings, corners and cracks.
Typical outdoor habitats of the brown recluse spider: storage places, underneath rocks or inside hollow trunks.
Below is a location map of where they are normally found:
|Recluse Spider Populations|
|The darkly shaded area of the map shows the distribution of the brown recluse spider (modified from the distribution map of Gertsch and Ennik, 1983). Additional limited populations may be found around the margins of the shaded area. The other 10 species of native recluse spiders are found in the striped area in the southwestern U.S.|
(Taken from http://spiders.ucr.edu/recluseid.html)
Several important things:
- Check the map to see if you live in an area that is supposed to have recluse spiders. If you do not live in any of the colored areas in the map, then it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that you have a recluse spider. It is POSSIBLE but incredibly unlikely.
- Because so many people have mistaken markings on a spider as violins, this is NOT a reliable characteristic for a non-arachnologist. You need to look at the eye pattern.
- Even if you have a recluse, bites from them are extremely rare, despite all the stories. Many of the really graphic nasty wounds you see on the internet as recluse bites can also be other conditions like necrotizing bacteria and pyoderma gangrenosum. Ninety percent of brown recluse bites are not medically significant, heal very nicely often without medical. intervention and treatment for most brown recluse bites is simple first aid (RICE therapy – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Many conditions are misdiagnosed as recluse bites when their cause is something else like infection, bad reaction to medication, diabetic ulcers, Lyme disease, or other underlying medical conditions.
The worst part about these spiders is their bite.
There are no lack of graphical images of brown recluse spider bites on the internet.. and since I wanted to keep this as informative and non-creepy as possible (believe me I got freaked about the pictures of the spider itself). I’ll provide a less graphic one.
Brown recluse spider bites often go unnoticed initially because they are usually painless bites. Occasionally, some minor burning that feels like a bee sting is noticed at the time of the bite. Symptoms usually develop two to eight hours after a bite. Keep in mind that most bites cause little tissue destruction.
If you think you have been bitten by a recluse, seek medical attention that day.
I hope this has been informative and educational.. if not a bit creepy.
- Brown Recluse – No, this music is not frightening (modernmysteryblog.com)
- Brown Recluse: Evening Tapestry (Review) (popmatters.com)
- where do brown recluse spiders live? should I be careful of them in Tennessee? (greenanswers.com)
- Can spiders hurt humans (wiki.answers.com)
- Spider Invasion (Ew right?) (cassioutlook.wordpress.com)
- The Venom Chronicles: Super Spiders (pbs.org)