The Truth about Brown Recluse SpidersMissy Henriksen
Monday, November 5, 2012
When most people think of spiders that can pose a threat to humans, they
probably think of the black widow, which is infamous for
its red hourglass marking and painful bites. But a different spider
species, known as the brown recluse, can pose serious
health threats, too. This spider is less familiar to many Americans
because, as their name suggests, they prefer to remain out of
sight. However, many homeowners encounter brown recluses more
frequently in the fall
months, as they enter our homes seeking shelter from the colder
Identifying Brown Recluse Spiders
Brown recluse spiders are tan to dark brown in color, and
between ¼ and ½ inches long. Like all spiders, they have eight legs
and a round body. Most brown recluse spiders also have a darker,
violin-shaped marking on their dorsum. They are found in the
Central Midwest, from Ohio to Nebraska and south through Texas and
Brown recluse spiders feed on small live prey such as insects.
Outside, brown recluse spiders are typically found around rocks,
utility boxes and woodpiles or under bark. Indoors, they can be
found in any undisturbed area, such as inside boxes, among papers,
in seldom-used clothing and shoes, under furniture, or in crevices
such as baseboards and window moldings. Closets, attics, crawl
spaces and basements are the most common hiding areas.
Understanding the Threat
Brown recluse spiders are not aggressive by nature, and
typically run for cover when disturbed. However, these spiders are
known to bite when they feel trapped. In many cases, a person is
bit when they unknowingly disturb a brown recluse, for example,
while moving storage boxes in a basement or putting on a piece of
clothing that has a spider hiding in it.
Both female and male brown recluse spiders can bite and inject
venom, making them a danger to humans. The bite is usually not
felt, but results in a stinging sensation, followed by intense pain
that develops as long as six to eight hours later. A small blister
usually develops at the bite location, and the surrounding area may
become swollen. Dead tissue around the bite may peel away leading
to a deep, open ulcer that can take three or more weeks to heal,
resulting in dense scar tissue. Restlessness, fever and difficulty
sleeping are common symptoms.
The venom injected during a bite can lead to a severe allergic
reaction, especially in children, the elderly and those with
preexisting medical conditions. If you suspect you or a family
member has been bitten by a brown recluse spider, it is important
to seek medical attention promptly. There is no anti-venom
available in the United States to counteract the poisonous venom of
the brown recluse spider bite, but a doctor may prescribe pain
medication and antibiotics to keep the bite from becoming infected.
In severe cases, plastic surgery may be required to rectify
Preventing Brown Recluse Spiders
So what can you do to prevent brown recluse spiders from taking
up residence in your home? To begin, inspect the outside of your
home for any small openings or holes, paying special attention to
areas where utility pipes enter the home. Seal any such openings
with a silicone caulk to prevent spiders and other insects from
gaining access inside.
Stack firewood at least twenty feet from your home and five
inches up off of the ground, to deter spiders from hiding out in
the wood. It’s a good idea to wear gloves when moving the wood, and
inspect it carefully before bringing indoors.
Store clothes and shoes inside plastic containers and shake out
all clothing that have been in a hamper, on the floor or in storage
before wearing. Use extra cautionwhen handling items that are not
used often, such as boots, baseball mitts, skates and gloves.
If you suspect you have been bitten by a brown recluse spider,
seek prompt medical attention. If you suspect you have a brown
recluse spider infestation, contact a licensed pest
professional. Do not attempt to handle the spiders on your own.
For more information on brown recluse spiders, or to find a local
pest professional, visit www.PestWorld.org.