Show Me A Recluse Spider?

What does a brown recluse spider look like?

A brown recluse may be brown or tan, with a violin-shaped area on the front half of its body. The neck of the violin points toward the spider’s belly.

It may be bigger than other spiders, from 1/4-inch to 3/4-inch. Its long legs make it seem even larger.

A brown recluse spider has six eyes: Two in front, and two more on each side of its head.

They’re found mostly in the Midwest and South. The spider favors indoor spaces, like attics, garages or dark closets. Outdoors, it hides in out-of-the-way places — under logs, beneath porches, or within piles of rocks.

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson on December 16, 2018

U.S. Department of Labor: “Brown Recluse Spider.”

CDC: “Venomous Spiders,” “Types of Venomous Spiders.”

Mayo Clinic: “Spider Bites Overview,” “Spider Bites Diagnosis,” “Spider Bites Symptoms and Causes,” Spider Bites: Preparing for Your Appointment,” “Spider Bites Treatment.”

Nemours Foundation: “Bug Bites and Stings.”

University of California: “Brown Recluse and Other Recluse Spiders.”

U.S. Department of Labor: “Brown Recluse Spider.”

CDC: “Venomous Spiders,” “Types of Venomous Spiders.”

Mayo Clinic: “Spider Bites Overview,” “Spider Bites Diagnosis,” “Spider Bites Symptoms and Causes,” Spider Bites: Preparing for Your Appointment,” “Spider Bites Treatment.”

Nemours Foundation: “Bug Bites and Stings.”

University of California: “Brown Recluse and Other Recluse Spiders.”

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What are symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite?

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More Answers On Skin Problems and Treatments

  • How can you diagnose a brown recluse spider bite?
  • What should you do if you’re bitten by a brown recluse spider?
  • How do you treat a brown recluse spider bite?
  • When should you see a doctor about a brown recluse spider bite?

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Brown Recluse Spider Bites

Childhood Skin Problems

Photo courtesy of CDC

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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 2-8 hours after a bite. Keep in mind that most bites cause little tissue destruction.

See also:  How To Make Spider Repellent With Peppermint Oil?

Initially the bite site is mildly red and upon close inspection may reveal fang marks. Within a few hours, the redness gives way to pallor with a red ring surrounding the area, or a «bull’s-eye» appearance. The lesion will often appear to flow downhill over the course of many hours. The center area will then often blister, which over 12-48 hours can sink, turning bluish then black as this area of tissue dies. Read more about the treatments for brown recluse spider bites.

Sources

Image: Photo courtesy of CDC

Text: «Brown Recluse Bite Treatment», WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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Tell-Tale Signs It’s Not a Brown Recluse Spider

It takes an expert to identify one, but almost anyone can say it’s not

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Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.

Michael Menna, DO, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He is an attending emergency medicine physician at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York and also works at an urgent care center and a telemedicine company that provides care to patients across the country.

To identify a brown recluse spider you need a very strong microscope and a spider expert.

And an actual brown recluse, which might be harder to find than you think.

These guys are tough to identify even by the experts. Unless you actually have a specimen to analyze, there’s no way to know what it was that bit you or that scurried across the kitchen floor. It takes a close examination of the spider itself to rule out all the other potential species that look like a brown recluse but don’t pack nearly the same punch.

Likewise, you can’t tell a brown recluse bite by the wound. There’s no blood test or culture that can show the presence of brown recluse venom in a suspected spider bite.

There’s no classically reliable pattern of signs or symptoms to help pinpoint this particular species.

Just Because It’s Brown Doesn’t Mean It’s a Recluse

Ladyb695 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

If anything, identifying a brown recluse is more about ruling out what it isn’t rather than figuring out what it is. Using these steps can help you figure out when it’s not a brown recluse. First, start with where you found the spider.

See also:  Why Do Spiders Bite When You Sleep?

Did You Find Your Spider in Known Brown Recluse Territory?

Brown recluse spiders live in a well-defined area in the south-central part of the United States.   Within their habitat, they’re hard to find. They are called «recluse» for a reason: They don’t like to play with others. These spiders like dark, dingy places. They hide under things and prefer living where the sun don’t shine.

Inside their habitat, brown recluse spiders cause serious infestations. Where there is one, there are most likely dozens or even hundreds. However, even in homes with such outrageous infestations, bites are very rare.

The scientific name for the brown recluse is loxosceles reclusa. In all those other colored areas of the map are other loxosceles species (Texan recluse, desert recluse, etc). They’re related to the brown recluse and all have similar venom. Indeed, some of the other loxesceles species have worse venom than the brown recluse.

So, if the spider was found outside of the known habitat of a brown recluse, then it is almost certainly not a brown recluse. Outside the other areas means it’s not even related to the brown recluse. If you have a specimen from inside the brown recluse zone (or if you think the experts are wrong about your particular spider even though you aren’t in brown recluse territory) then let’s try to figure out if it’s not a brown recluse.

Let’s take a look at its legs.

Loxosceles Rhymes With Isosceles for a Reason

Loxosceles rhymes with isosceles, which you may remember from geometry is a type of triangle. The words are similar for a reason.

Loxosceles actually means slanted legs. If you look at a brown recluse from the side you can see how the body sits low and the legs angle up to a point. It’s that angular, slanted shape of its legs that give the brown recluse its scientific name.

Two more distinct features of brown recluse legs:

  • No spines: Unlike many other spider species, loxosceles does not have spikes or spines on its legs.   They are smooth.
  • One color: Some spiders have multi-colored legs, but loxosceles keeps it solid—no stripes and no patterns.

If your spider doesn’t have these legs then it’s definitely not a brown recluse. If you find these leg characteristics similar to your spider then look into its eyes, all 6 of them.

The Eyes of the Brown Recluse

Assuming you’re in brown recluse country and you have a spider with a low-slung body on angled, smooth, solid color legs, the next thing is to look your spider in the eye.

Brown recluse spiders have 6 eyes.   They’re paired in what are known as diads and arranged on the front and sides of the brown recluse’s head (see image upper left and bottom). Other spider species might have 8 eyes or they might have 6 eyes arranged in two triads (groups of three).

These guys are tiny, so seeing their eyes without a microscope is going to be difficult. If you have trouble with the fine print like me, you’ll probably at least want a magnifying glass.

You can’t be sure if it is a brown recluse based only on the eyes, but if the eyes aren’t in the proper pattern then it’s definitely not a brown recluse.

You got here because your spider had smooth, angled legs of all one color and you found it in brown recluse territory. Does your spider also have the proper peepers? If not, you’re done here. If it does, move on to the rest of the body.

If the Legs and the Eyes Look Good, How About the Rest of the Body?

There are two more characteristics you need to see for this to be a loxosceles:

  • The body (without legs) has to be small, no more than 3/8 of an inch.
  • The abdomen (big round part on the backside) needs to be a little fuzzy with very fine hairs and a solid color.

Brown recluses are boring when it comes to fashion. They like solids. They aren’t into patterns or stripes and that is obvious on their legs and abdomens.   There is one common brown recluse fashion statement that everyone seems to know about: the fiddles on their backs.

Isn’t It Called a Fiddleback for a Reason?

The one feature most commonly talked about in brown recluse descriptions is the violin-shaped mark on its back.   Not all loxosceles are brown recluses, but they all have similar venom. Not all brown recluses have the classic violin mark. Even if it’s there, you might not be able to clearly see it.

See also:  What Happens If You Get Bitten By A Spider?

Worse yet, there are a bunch of spiders that also have the violin marking on their backs and they’re not brown recluses. In many cases, they’re not even venomous to humans. The worst-case scenario is that a doctor thinks you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse when you have not.

There’s no antivenin—no specific treatment—for brown recluse bites, but many wounds that are diagnosed as brown recluse bites are actually infections and could be treated with antibiotics as long as your doctor diagnosis it correctly.

Counting on the fiddle to identify a brown recluse is a bad idea.

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University of Kentucky. Entomology. Brown Recluse Spider.

www.verywellhealth.com

Bites and Infestations

Picture of Brown Recluse Spider Bites

Brown recluse spider bites often go unnoticed initially because they are usually painless bites. Occasionally, some minor burning that feels like a bee is noticed at the time of the bite. Symptoms usually develop 2-8 hours after a bite. Keep in mind that most bites cause little tissue destruction.

Initially the bite site is mildly red and upon close inspection may reveal fang marks. Within a few hours, the redness gives way to pallor with a red ring surrounding the area, or a «bull’s-eye» appearance. The lesion will often appear to flow downhill over the course of many hours. The center area will then often blister, which over 12-48 hours can sink, turning bluish then black as this area of tissue dies.

Image: Photo courtesy of CDC

Text: «Brown Recluse Bite Treatment», Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

www.medicinenet.com

Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Brown recluse spiders are capable of biting when disturbed or threatened. This may occur when a person unknowingly wears an infested piece of clothing or rolls over in his or her sleep. Similarly, brown recluses are known to build their webs in boxes and beneath old furniture; reaching into these areas may result in a bite.

Reactions to the brown recluse spider bite are variable. Depending on the bite location and amount of venom injected, reactions run the gamut from mild skin irritation to skin lesions. Most bites heal themselves and do not result in lasting tissue damage.

These bites are not painful at first and often go unnoticed until the first side effects appear. Symptoms do not usually manifest for a few hours after the bite. After reddening and swelling, a blister may appear at the bite site. Victims of brown recluse spider bites can experience fever, convulsions, itching, nausea and muscle pain.

In extreme cases, brown recluse spider bites may result in necrosis, or the death of living cells. In this case, painful open wounds appear and do not heal quickly. Wounds will appear purple and black at this time. If left untreated, necrotic and ulcerous wounds can expand to affect both superficial and deep tissues. Deep scarring can occur in the wake of such brown recluse spider bite symptoms, and skin grafting is sometimes utilized to cosmetically treat scarring.

Venom & Toxicity

Venom released by the brown recluse spider contains a complex collection of enzymes which can cause hemolysis, the rupturing of blood cells. The red blood cells walls rupture, and the cells’ contents are leaked, including the red, oxygen-bearing protein known as hemoglobin.

Can Bites be Deadly?

The brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is rumored to be the one of the most poisonous house spiders in the United States. However, although the bite of a brown recluse in rare instances can prove damaging to tissue, a fatality from a brown recluse bite has never been verified. Scientific literature cites many other likely sources of supposed brown recluse bites, such as bacterial infections. If a bite is suspected or if there are any medical concerns, consult a medical professional.

Seek Medical Treatment

If a brown recluse bite is suspected, a medical professional should be consulted. Many cases of suspected recluse bite turn out to be a number of other medical conditions which cause similar side effects, including skin lesions. They are often misdiagnosed, even by medical professionals, as brown recluse spider bites. Possible other causes of skin lesions include bacterial infections, chemical burns or allergic reactions to medications.

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