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Brown Recluse

brown-recluse-spider-large.jpgThe brown recluse spider (Loxosceles Recluse) belongs to a group of spiders commonly known as or fiddleback spiders. The brown recluse spider is usually light brown in color with six equal sized eyes. The fiddle-shaped pattern is located on the top of the leg attachment region (cephalothorax). Because they are withdrawn (secluded), as their name implies, the brown recluse spider avoids open spaces and seeks out dark closets, attics, basements, under furniture or in shoes. A brown recluse spider bite can inject toxic venom.  

The brown recluse spider cannot bite humans without some form of counter pressure, for example, through unintentional contact that traps the spider against the skin. Brown reculse spider bites often cause a stinging sensation with localized pain. Typically, a small white blister develops at the site of the spider bite. The venom of a brown recluse spite can cause a severe lesion by destroying skin tissue (skin necrosis). Skin lesions will sometimes require professional medical attention.

 

We have identified a spider bite ointment that contains activated charcoal along with other spider bite treatments.  We have also located a spider bite first aid kit that includes the spider bite ointment along with supplies to deal with the other symptoms associated with venomous spider bites (e.g., brown recluse spider and black widow spider) and other insect bites and stings. 

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Habitat

 The brown recluse spider is most commonly found in the Midwestern and Southern United States. The brown recluse spider builds small webs behind in dark undisturbed places to which they can retreat.

  • Webs can be outdoors in rock piles or under logs or lumber as well as garages, barns and other outbuildings.
  • Indoors brown recluse spiders can be found in closets, basements, crawl spaces, attics, ductwork and registers. They may also retreat to shoes, clothing, storages boxes and behind or under furniture.

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brown-recluse-spider-fiddle.jpgIdentification

  • Body size: brown recluse spiders are typically 1/4 to 3/4 inch (6.4-19.1mm), between the size of a nickel and a quarter
  • Legs: long, thin, brown covered with tiny hairs that give a velvet like appearance.
  • Color: golden, light or sandy brown, immature brown recluse spiders have similar marking, but are somewhat lighter color and smaller
  • Markings: A dark violin/fiddle shape (see top photo) is located on the top of the leg attachment region (cephalothorax)  of the brown recluse spider with the neck of the violin/fiddle pointing backward toward the abdomen.
  • Eyes: While most spiders have 8 eyes, the brown recluse spider has 6 eyes. The eyes that are arranged in pairs – one pair in front and a pair on either side – can be seen with some magnification.
  • Sex: the female brown recluse spider is slightly larger, but both sexes are venomous

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Mis-Identification

Brown recluse spiders can also be classified by thier behavior as hunting spiders.  From a distance, some common, harmless North American hunting spiders can look similar in appearance to the brown recluse spider.  Many of these spiders are often seen in or around home.  This is why it is important to learn to recognize the difference between these common harmless spiders and the brown relcuse spider with its potentially dangerous spider bite:

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 From left to right these are the brown recluse spider, the southern house spider, the wolf spider, the huntsman spider, and the funnel spider. 

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Behavior

Female brown recluse spiders produce 1/2 inch, offwhite egg sacs in early summer; spiderlings emerge in late summer and typiically take a full year to mature.  Mature brown recluse spiders live one to to years and can go long periods without food or warter.

Brown recluse spider webs are off-white, loose and without a pattern, usually hidden behind objects. The spiders roam at night searching for prey, usually in the form of dead insects. The brown recluse spider is not aggressive, and spider bites normally occur only when it is trapped, handled or otherwise disturbed. Three common causes of spider bites are 1) in bed after accidentally rolling onto a spider; 2) when wearing infequently used shoes or clothing containing a brown recluse, and 3) inadvertently touching the spider when cleaning.

 

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Symptoms 

Brown recluse spider bite severity can vary from minor to very severe depending on individual sensitivity to the venom and to the amount of venom injected with the spider bite. Most victims of brown recluse spider bites generally have minimal symptoms.

  • brown-recluse-spider-bite-6.jpgbrown-recluse-spider-bite-3.jpgSpider bites generally becomes red and feel warm within a few hours.
  • Typically within 2-3 days brown recluse spider bite victims will sometimes notice systemic reactions with symptoms such as itching restlessness, chills, nausea, fever, weakness and pain.
  • Fatalities are extremely rare, but brown recluse spider bites are most dangerous to young children, the elderly, and those in poor physical condition.
  • While most brown recluse spider bites are minor, some can lead to an erupting lesion (a hole in the flesh caused by gangrenous tissue). The lesion can range from the size of a pea to a half dollar or larger. The dead tissue gradually falls off, exposing underlying tissues. The sunken, ulcerated brown recluse wound may take weeks or even months to heal leaving a ugly scar.

See Spider Bite page for more details and photos.

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First Aid 

spider-bite-kit-items.jpgTake the following steps if you have a brown recluse spider bite:

  • Stay calm.
  • If safe, capture the brown recluse spider. Because it is nearly impossible to identify the cause simply by examining the wound and because necrotic wounds can result from a variety of agents in addition to brown recluse spider bites (bacteria, viruses, other insects, lymphatic disorders, drug reactions, diseases, etc.), identifying the spider will help the medical professional better know which course of action to take.
  • Clean the spider bite area with soap, alcohol or other astringent.
  • Cover brown recluse wound with a clean bandage
  • If pain is severe apply benzocaine or other topical pain reliever.
  • Apply ice to the brown recluse spider bite area to slow absorption of the venom.
  • Elevate bite area if possible.
  • Do not attempt to remove brown recluse spider bite venom.

See the Spider Bite First Aid page for more detail on first aid options.

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Control 

brown-recluse-spider-duster.jpgDue to their recluse nature, brown recluse spiders may be distributed throughout the house and infestations may take months to bring under control. The best control uses multiple techniques involving bite prevention, cleanliness, trapping and insecticides. Individuals can take the following steps to minimize risk of brown recluse spider bites:

    • Inspect or shake out any clothing, shoes, towels, or equipment before use.
    • Minimize the empty spaces between stacked materials. Remove bedskirts and move beds away from walls.
    • Dust and vacuum to remove brown recluse spider webs and egg sacs.
    • Eliminate garage, basement, attic and closet clutter.
    • Remove and reduce debris, rubble, and tall grasses from around the house where brown recluse pefer to hide.
    • Take care when handling cardboard boxes
    • Keep your tetanus booters up to date (every 10 years).  Brown recluse spider bites can become infected with tetanus spores.

 

  • Control brown recluse spider and prey insect populations in the home with pest control products such as dusts, sprays and traps, preferably with natural products that are not harmful to humans, pets or the environment.

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For more inforation see the associated pages about spider dust, spider spray, and spider traps.

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