Meet the Brown Recluse Spider

Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders – is one of the most common phobias. While spiders may make you wince, grab a broom, and jump atop the nearest chair, your odds of getting killed by one are extremely low. Only about six people are killed every year in the U.S. due to spider bites.

Brown Recluse – Mike Keeling via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Brown Recluse – Mike keeling via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The black widow spider is the most lethal eight-legged killer in North America. Yet fears abound when it comes to the brown recluse. How can a creature about the size of a quarter be so feared? Compared to the hairy, oversize tarantula, the recluse is rather small, bald, and yellowish-tan to dark brown in color.

Brown recluse spider. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Brown recluse spider. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

But beware: brown recluse spider venom is toxic to both humans and animals. In the most serious cases, bites can lead to necrosis (tissue death), which is why it’s important to seek out medical help immediately if you suspect you’ve been bitten. (And no, getting bitten by one won’t give you superpowers!)

Picture of a brown recluse spider bite - Credit: AFPMB (Flickr)

Picture of a brown recluse spider bite – Credit: AFPMB (Flickr)

It’s quite common to mistake other spiders and insects for the brown recluse (after all, how close do you want to get to examine one?). The brown recluse sports a unique identifier — a violin pattern — on its back. They are most common in the Midwest and Southern U.S., between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains.

Where the brown recluse spider roam (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Where the brown recluse spider roam (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

True to their name, the brown recluse spider hides out in dark, dry nooks and crannies where it can set up its web hangout and rest up for stalking insect prey at night. It only bites when threatened (like when you clean out your attic, shed, or under the porch, which are favorite hideouts for the spider).

Another nasty brown recluse spider bite - Credit Jeffrey Rowland (Flickr)

Another nasty brown recluse spider bite – Credit: Jeffrey Rowland (Flickr)

Most brown recluse bites occur in the summertime, and you’ll probably not even notice that you’ve been bitten at first. If you live in certain states (Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, we’re looking at you) where the recluse calls home, you’ll want to shake out shoes and blankets before using them.

Check out this photo of a severe brown recluse spider bite. Warning — it’s really graphic!


While it’s extremely rare to die from a brown recluse bite, and about 90% of bites will heal without complications, you might want to take a few extra steps for safety. Here are a few tips from University of California, Riverside:

  • Use glue/sticky traps to trap spiders.
  • Remove bedskirts, move the bed away from the wall and clear out everything from under the bed.
  • De-junk. The recluse spider loves hanging out around cardboard boxes, tarps and other items. Use tape to carefully seal cardboard boxes.
  • Be cautious around woodpiles, and place woodpiles away from your house.

Be Prepared. Know Before™.

The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team

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