The brown recluse spider is part of the genus Loxosceles and is sometimes known as “fiddleback” spiders or “violin” spiders because of the violin-shaped marking on the top of the cephalothorax, which are the head and the thorax.
The brown recluse spider has six eyes, which are all arranged in three pairs (sometimes a pair may be so close that they look like one eye rather than two). Their eyes are also their most noticeable feature which makes it easy to identify a brown recluse spider.
Identify the Brown Recluse Spider
The violin-shaped marking is typically found only on more mature brown recluse spider. The brown recluse is range from a light tan to a darker brown color with their entire body being covered with thin hairs. The brown recluse spider is about 3/8 inches long and about 3/16 inches wide. Although the male spider are somewhat smaller in body length than females, their leg span is usually the same length.
If there is more than one color on the legs, or if the legs are dark brown, or if there is more than one pigment on the abdomen, it is NOT a recluse. Note: spitting spiders (genus Scytodes) have a similar eye pattern but do not have the violin mark.
The brown recluse spider is found throughout the Midwest and the southern central part of the United States. It is very rare to find a brown recluse spider outside of those particular areas. Brown recluse spiders are typically found outside in many different areas such as under rocks or logs, woodpiles, dirt, or debris. However, during the cooler months it is not uncommon to find brown recluse spiders within the house, especially basements, attics, closets, or anywhere else that is dry and warm.
Many times during those months the brown recluse will go without any food or water. It is nearly impossible to fully get rid of brown recluse spiders once they have become established in these areas of the home. The brown recluse does not spin a web either to catch their food; instead they hunt their prey which usually consists of insects, either dead or alive.
The brown recluse is actually somewhat nocturnal, as they spend most of the daylight hours hidden within rocks or logs. They line these homes with webbing, which is later used for holding their egg sacs. If a brown recluse spider is seen during daylight hours it usually has to do with the fact that they are hungry, otherwise they stay hidden.
Our Brown Recluse Spider Bite section has some very graphic pictures of what happens when people are bitten by a BRS and pictures of the spider. Rick Vetter over at UC Riverside Dept of Entomology also has a page on Entomology – Brown Recluse Spiders. The agricultural extension service of the university of Tennessee has a brown recluse spider packet in pdf format the you may also find helpful.
Here is a quick test to determine if you may have a Recluse:
1) Has 3 pair of eyes, one in front, one on each side.
2) Has Violin shaped marking
3) Legs must be one uniformly light-colored
4) Only one pigment on the abdomen
5) Fine hairs on legs, no spines
6) Body length is less than half an inch (3/8 usually)
Brown Recluse Spiders
Brown recluse spiders are not aggressive unless they are aggravated, which is like many other species of spiders as well. Some cases where they may bite is if they are trapped between skin and other surface or when putting on clothes that they are hiding in.
Because of that it is extremely important to thoroughly shake out clothing before putting it away to ensure that there are no hidden spiders that could possibly bite. The brown recluse spider bite is often not even felt, which makes it very dangerous. In some cases the bite is noticed right away because of immense pain, for others it can take several hours before the bite is even noticed. The reaction to the bite depends on how much venom is injected.
The only deaths reported from a brown recluse spider bite have been with children under the age of seven. However, the brown recluse is one of four species of spiders that is dangerous to humans along with the black widow spider. If bitten by a brown recluse spider it is vital that the victim seeks medical attention right away, and if possible capturing the spider and bringing it in will help ensure accurate identification. More about the Brown Recluse Spider Bite