What Is A Brown Recluse Spider Look Like?

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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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 Spiders

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Appearance / Identification


Brown Recluse Spider

How Did I Get Brown Recluse Spiders?

Like many spiders, the brown recluse spider likes to stay secluded in dark corners of places that are rarely disturbed or cleaned. Inside locaations such as voids between and under kitchen cabinets, storage areas and basements inside houses can provide plenty of areas for these pests to hide. Outside these spiders may inhabit sheds, barns and garages and may unknowingly be brought inside a home when moving stored items inside. The abundance of prey insects can lure a brown recluse spider inside the house, as well as provide a sustainable source of food should they get inside a home.

See also:  How Is A Scorpion Different From Other Insects And Spiders?

How Serious Are Brown Recluse Spiders?

The pests lay up to five egg sacs with as many as fifty eggs in each. This can quickly escalate an infestation. While they typically refrain from attacking humans, brown recluse spiders will bite if provoked. This often occurs when people step on the pests or roll on them while sleeping. Bites can result in lesions, nausea, and fever.

How Do You Get Rid of Them?

The Orkin Man™ is trained to help manage brown recluse spiders. Since every building or home is unique, your Orkin technician will design a special program for your situation.

Keeping spiders out of homes and buildings is an ongoing process, not a one-time treatment. Orkin’s exclusive A.I.M. solution is a continuing cycle of three critical steps — Assess, Implement and Monitor.

The Orkin Man™ can provide the right solution to keep spiders in their place. out of your home, or business.

Signs of a Brown Recluse Spider Infestation

The most likely sign of recluses are sightings of the spider.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Brown recluse spiders dwell in many of the same dark, sheltered places as black widows. They can be found in homes, barns and basements. Webs tend to appear disorganized and are built most commonly near ground level. The spider is a hunter, so the web is not intended to catch prey but instead roams around searching for prey. The brown recluse is found in the central southern part of the U.S., from Texas to the western most part of Florida.

Brown recluse spiders are shy and rarely bite unless provoked. Bites usually go unnoticed until effects manifest a few hours later. Most bites become red and fade away, but in uncommon cases necrosis or tissue damage can occur. A medical professional should be consulted if there are medical concerns.

More Information

Although urban myth purports that they are found throughout the U.S., studies have shown otherwise. Brown recluse spiders are endemic only to the American South and Midwest. Relocation of the brown recluse can occur in boxes or items moved from its native range. These usually are isolated events and do not result in an entire area becoming infested.

Many conditions are mistakenly diagnosed as brown recluse spider bites, including Lyme disease, diabetic ulcers, reactions to medication and bacterial infections.

Due to misinformation and fright, many people identify harmless spiders as brown recluses. They are also referred to as fiddleback spiders due to a distinctive marking on the thorax, which resembles a violin. Brown recluses have uniformly colored legs and abdomens; so any spider exhibiting distinct color variations and patterning on the legs or abdomen is not a brown recluse.

www.orkin.com

Brown Recluse Spiders: Facts, Bites & Symptoms

The brown recluse spider is well-known for its appearance and poisonous bite. It is the most common and widespread of the brown spiders, but it is found only in the south and central United States.

Brown recluse spiders live in a region comprising Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. According to the entomology department at the University of California, Riverside, if you do not live in those areas, «it is highly unlikely that you have a recluse spider. It is possible but incredibly unlikely.»

This map shows the range of different species of recluse spiders, including the brown recluse (reclusa, in red); Texas recluse (devia, in yellow); Big Bend recluse (blanda, in green); Apache recluse (apachea, in light blue); Arizona recluse (arizonica, in blue); and desert recluse (deserta, in purple). (Image credit: University of California, Riverside)

Appearance

The brown recluse is part of the Loxosceles genus of spiders. Members of this group have violin-shaped markings on the top of their cephalothorax (fused head and thorax) and may be informally referred to as fiddleback or violin spiders, according to The Ohio State University Extension Entomology Department.

The brown recluse’s violin marking can vary in intensity depending on the age of the spider, with mature spiders typically having dark violin shapes, according to The Ohio State University. The violin shape points toward the spider’s bulbous abdomen. The violin shape is easy to misinterpret, so it is best to look at the eyes when determining if a spider is a brown recluse.

The recluse’s eyes are one of its most distinctive physical characteristics. «They have six eyes, instead of eight like most spiders,» said entomologist Christy Bills, invertebrate collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Other types of spiders have eight eyes arranged in rows of four. Recluses, however, have six equal-size eyes arranged in three pairs, called dyads, in a semicircle around the front of the cephalothorax.

Another distinguishing characteristic of the brown recluse spider is its uniformly colored abdomen (though the shade of brown varies from spider to spider) covered in fine hairs, which give it a velvety appearance. Their long, thin legs are also covered in fine hairs. According to the Integrated Pest Management Program at The University of California, Berkeley, the scientific name Loxosceles means «slanted legs,» and refers to the fact that recluse spiders hold their legs in a slanting position when at rest. Bills also noted that the brown recluse’s legs do not have spines, only fine hairs.

Ohio State University reports that the brown recluse is typically about three-eighths of an inch long and about three-sixteenths of an inch wide (about 1 centimeter long and half a centimeter wide), with males being slightly smaller than females but possessing longer legs.

Classification/taxonomy

According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the taxonomy of brown recluse spiders is:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Subkingdom: Bilateria
  • Infrakingdom: Protostomia
  • Superphylum: Ecdysozoa
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Family: Sicariidae
  • Genus & species: Loxosceles reclusa

Habits

The brown recluse gets its name from its color and its «shy nature,» Bills said. «Most spiders go out of their way to avoid humans, which makes sense, considering we are thousands of times larger than they are and don’t have a great record of behaving politely toward them.»

See also:  All About Sun Spiders and Best Ways To get Rid Of Them

Brown recluses often hide in dark, secluded places, like under porches or deep in closets. The brown recluse thrives in man-made areas, and may be found under trash cans, tires, etc. It is primarily nocturnal and lays its eggs from May to July.

Brown recluse spiders get around by hitchhiking on furniture boxes and other items from infestedstructures, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. They are well adapted for establishing themselves by hitchhiking. They are long-lived, can go for many months without eating, and are adapted to the hot, dry conditions found in many structures. What’s more, a female brown recluse needs to mate only once to produce eggs throughout her life, and can produce 150 or more spiderlings in a year. Thus, a single female hitchhiking into a structure is all it takes to establish an infestation. The need to inspect items before moving them in is clear.

Once established within a structure, brown recluses are often difficult to control. Though hundreds of brown recluses may be present in a house, they may not be easily observed because of their reclusive, nocturnal habits.

Brown recluse bite

The brown recluse has a venomous bite, and anyone bitten should seek immediate emergency medical help, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Like most spiders, the brown recluse typically only bites when disturbed — though it is possible to inadvertently threaten them. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Program reports that this may happen if a spider is caught in bedding or clothing.

«People react differently to bites,» Bills said. According to The Integrated Pest Management Program at UC Berkeley, 90 percent of bites heal without medical attention or scarring. Reactions to a brown recluse bite vary depending on the amount of venom injected and the individual’s sensitivity levels, reports The Ohio State University. Some people may experience a delayed reaction, others an immediate reaction, and others no reaction at all. Many brown recluse bites leave a small red mark that heals quickly, and the vast majority of bites do not leave scars.

For those with higher sensitivity levels, a small white blister appears at the bite site soon after the bite. The tissue may become hard. Lesions are dry, blue-gray or blue-white patches with ragged edges surrounded by redness. This color pattern has yielded the nickname «red, white and blue,» and, in severe reactions, the bite site can develop a «volcano lesion,» according to The Ohio State University. The damaged tissue becomes gangrenous and leaves an open wound that can be as large as a human hand. It can take eight weeks or longer for full recovery, and scars may result.

According to the NIH, symptoms of a brown recluse bite may include itching, chills, fever, nausea, sweating and a general feeling of discomfort or sickness.

After being bitten by a brown recluse spider, a 10-year-old girl in Mexico required two medical procedures to remove blackened, dead tissue from her leg. (Image credit: The New England Journal of Medicine ©2013)

Treatment

There is no effective commercial antivenin. If you are bitten, the NIH recommends calling 911 or poison control or getting to an emergency room immediately.

The NIH says you should wash the area of the bite with soap and water, then wrap ice in a washcloth and place it on the bite area for 10 minutes. Remove the washcloth for 10 minutes, and repeat the process.

Then, go immediately to the emergency room and bring the spider, if possible, for identification purposes.

For the latest information on brown recluse spiders and other arachnids, visit:

Editor’s Note: If you’d like more information on this topic, we recommend the following book:

Additional resources

  • University of California, Riverside: How to identify brown recluse spiders
  • NIH: Picture of brown recluse spider bite
  • Illinois Department of Public Health: Brown Recluse and Black Widow Spiders

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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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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.

See also:  What Does A Daddy Long Leg Spider Look Like?

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.

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.

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.

University of Kentucky. Entomology. Brown Recluse Spider.

www.verywellhealth.com

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