Brown Recluse Spider


Brown RecluseThe Brown Recluse spider is one of the most feared spiders in the country. With many cousins and relatives, like the Arizona or Brazilian Recluse, these spiders can be found almost anywhere. These spiders don’t like confrontation and will rarely bite, but when the spider does bit it causes loss of tissue and severe scarring in afflicted area.

The Brown Recluse Spider is one of the most venomous spiders in North America, commonly found in the southeastern United States. They make their habitats often in peoples homes but their natural habitat is in rotting tree bark. The Brown Recluse is rarely aggressive but when it does bite it is not immediately painful. The bite will develop nausea, vomiting, fever and rashes on the bite wound. The bite wound will itch and become painful. This will worsen over time when the poison attacks red blood cells and cause the skin cells to die.


Additional Notes on the Brown Recluse Spider


  • The brown recluse spider is also called the fiddleback spider, and violin spider due to a marking that looks like a violin, with the neck of the violin pointing to the rear of the spider.
  • They are native to the U.S. from the southwestern most part of Ohio, through southern Indiana, middle and southern Illinois, southern Iowa, all of Missouri, most of eastern Nebraska, all of Oklahoma (except for the most westerly tip), over ½ of the eastern and southern parts of Texas, all of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, northwestern Atlanta and upward through most of Tennessee and Kentucky.



  • The brown recluse spider is identifiable by the violin shaped marking on its back. Some species are lighter in color and the “fiddle” doesn’t readily show. The abdomen is uniformly colored; they are light tan to dark brown and are covered with numerous hairs that give them a velvety appearance. The long thin brown legs are also covered with fine hairs. Adult brown recluse have a leg span about the size of a quarter, with a body about 3/8 in long and 3/16 in. wide. Males are smaller in body length than females but have longer legs. Both sexes are venomous. The immatures are identical to adults except smaller and lighter in color.


Venomous bite:

  • The brown recluse is not an aggressive spider and only will bite when pressed against. A wound infected with Staphylococcus bacteria, which is resistant to Methicillin (a type of penicillin) can be confused with a brown recluse bite because they are so similar. Brown recluse bites are rare, but can produce a symptom called loxoscelism or a poisoning of the skin tissue. Rarely has their bite been fatal and then most were children under 7 or those with a weak immune system.
  • Initially, the bite may feel like a pinprick. A small white blister usually rises and the area around it becomes swollen. The affected area becomes red and is hard to touch. The lesion from a brown recluse spider is dry, turns blue-gray or blue-white and will sink in with ragged edges and the surrounding area becomes red. This is termed the “red, white and blue sign.”  Some symptoms are restlessness, generalized itching, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting or shock. When there is a severe reaction to the bite, it can look like a volcano where the wound forms a hole in the flesh due to damaged, gangrenous tissue. The wound can vary from the size of an adult thumbnail to the size of a hand. The dead tissue gradually sloughs away leaving underlying tissue exposed. The sunken, ulcerating sore may take 6-8 weeks to heal and as much as several months for full recovery.


Life cycle:

  • The brown recluse spider lays eggs from May through July. The female lays about 50 eggs that are encased in an egg sac that is off white, silken and about 2/3” in diameter. She only needs to mate once to produce eggs throughout her life and can produce as many as 150 spiderlings in her life span. Spiderlings emerge in about 30 days and development to adulthood is slow and is influenced by weather and food supply. It takes up to 1 year to reach the adult stage. The brown recluse will only live 1-2 years.


Habitat and feeding:

  • Recluse spiders build their irregular webs in barns, woodpiles, sheds, under logs, loose stones in rock piles and stacks of lumber. Indoors they will settle in closets, garages, cellars and other places that are dry and undisturbed. They prefer cardboard when indoors, but will also go in shoes, dressers, bed sheets, sacks of clothes, behind baseboards, pictures and near furnaces. Males will leave the web at night to hunt for food. The female will also leave the web but will not wander very far.
  • The brown recluse eats other insects like flies, mosquitoes, mites and other spiders.