Few things incite fear in people as much as spiders, and there are many kinds of them more than we know, such as the wolf spider, hobo spider, yellow sac spider, and black widow spider. There are just too many. Almost all are considered a venomous spider. But few can cause more harm to humans. They include the brown recluse spider, whose venom is more potent than a rattlesnake’s. While seldom deadly due to the small amounts of venom it releases, its painful bite can bring intense pain and produce open, ulcerating wounds.
So where do brown recluse spiders (loxosceles spiders) live? They often live outdoors, with hundreds and even thousands of these pesky pests residing in a single area. Mostly, they’re found across the south-central and midwestern United States.
Regarded as the most common brown spider species and often mentioned with the female brown recluse spider, Mediterranean recluse spider, and adult brown recluse spiders, the brown recluse is normally between 6 and 20 millimeters in length. It's often nicknamed a fiddleback spider, brown fiddler, or violin spider because of its violin-shaped marking on the top of its cephalothorax (fused head and thorax). Also, cellar spiders and pirate spiders both have similar markings. To tell the difference, examine their eyes. Brown recluse spiders have six eyes set in pairs instead of the usual eight arranged in four rows. Some have solid dark brown abdomens hidden in fine hairs that look like velvet.
Another poisonous spider often confused with the brown recluses is the brown widow, which looks significantly more menacing. Most wouldn't tell these two creepy crawlers apart, but a good identifying mark for a brown widow is its orange hourglass shape that appears on the underside of its abdomen. It also has black and brown striped legs.
More than 80 percent of brown recluse spiders are found throughout the south-central and midwestern United States. They’re most common in Southern California (just like a desert recluse), Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Kansas, and Alabama. They usually live outdoors in debris and woodpiles, and there are hundreds and even thousands residing in a single area. When indoors, brown recluse spiders prefer to hide in cardboards because they imitate rotting tree bark. They can also be found hiding in clothes, shoes, tires, bedding, furniture, and storage areas. If you see one of these venomous spiders, there may be much more hiding in your home.
While the brown recluse spiders often live outdoors, they’re also well adapted to living indoors. They can withstand any season, even winters in unheated basements and sweltering summers in attics, surviving many months with no water or food. The brown recluse goes out at night time, hunting insect prey, whether dead or alive. It doesn’t use the web to capture food like other spider species.
During the daytime, brown recluse spiders usually hide in dark, secluded areas. They line their retreats with asymmetrical webbing which is used to form egg sacs. Adult female recluses hardly venture far from their retreat, whereas males and older juveniles travel farther. At times, brown recluse spiders can be seen during daylight hours crawling on floors, walls, and other exposed surfaces. This behavior is often triggered by hunger, overcrowding, pesticide application, or other factors.
According to studies, brown recluses can live up to five to 10 years under ideal conditions. These spiders develop their off-white silken egg sacs between February and September, with most development from May through July. Each egg sac typically contains between 20 and 50 eggs. The female usually produces up to five egg sacs. After emerging from the egg sac within three to five weeks, the spiderlings linger in the web with the mother for at least one or two molts before migrating to other suitable habitats. The molted skins of the brown recluse have a distinct outstretched appearance and can be useful in confirming infestation.
Learn More: Spider Eggs
Brown recluse spiders are typically not aggressive and only bite when they feel threatened. And a brown recluse bite may occur when a person wears clothes infested with spiders or rolls onto spiders while sleeping. This brown recluse spider problem happens during the summer when humans accidentally disturb their habitats and hiding place. More often, the brown recluse spiders bite when pressed against the skin. Many people are bitten after putting on gloves or coats they hadn’t worn in a while or left on the floor. Despite their usually timid nature, the brown recluse is inherently more dangerous than other spiders because they live in habitats that are in close contact with humans.
Brown recluse bites are generally red with faint fang marks. In the following 12 hours or more, the redness will give way to a ring that resembles a bullseye. The center of the bite will turn hard and white and will blister before turning blue or black. Usually, the spider bite will heal in a few days or weeks. Ninety percent of brown recluse spider bite mends without scarring, though it depends on the amount of brown recluse venom injected and an individual's sensitivity levels.
In most severe cases, brown recluse spider bites inject venom, which can lead to a necrotic wound, a form of tissue death. These volcano lesions can leave wounds the size of our hands and take months for the blighted, gangrenous tissue to slough away. In these cases, opioids, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and skin grafts are necessary, and deep scarring may result.
Keep in mind that bites usually go unnoticed for a few hours. Then symptoms progress from itching to intense pain in the affected area. Victims could also experience fever, vomiting, nausea, muscle pain, swelling, and convulsions. If symptoms like abdominal pain or muscle cramps occur, there’s a chance that it’s a black widow spider bite.
If a recluse spider has bitten you, immediately wash the portion with soap, apply ice to lessen swelling and pain, take acetaminophen, and raise the area above the heart to stop the venom from spreading. Moreso, there’s no commercially effective antivenin, so if you suspect that a brown recluse has bitten you, go to the hospital immediately and bring the spider for identification purposes.
To avoid brown recluse infestation, store clothing and shoes inside storage and shake out items before wearing or washing. It's best to move your bed away from the wall and remove stored items under it to stop a spider from crawling toward the bed. To eliminate outside threats, reduce garbage, brush piles, woodpiles, boxes, plywood, trash cans, and tires. Using pesticides to control a spider infestation is often ineffective because these creatures can use their long legs to walk over the chemicals. Fumigation and glue traps (any sticky trap) are proven to be way more effective.
Brown recluse and widow spiders can be challenging to eradicate, mainly due to their secretive habits. Any dark, undisturbed spot can serve as harborage, and many such places occur within homes and establishments. Because of the potential health threat they bring, treatment is best performed by professionals.
If you’re eager to find a permanent solution to get rid of these eight-legged invaders, contact Pinnacle Pest Control today and learn more about our pest control services. We’re fully committed to providing effective solutions using the integrated pest management or IPM concept, which incorporates every aspect of pest prevention, including inspection, exclusion, mechanical, and chemical control techniques. This is all while using minimal amounts of environmentally sensitive products.