Characteristics, Habits, and Geography
Brown recluse spiders, also known as fiddleback spiders, brown fiddlers, or violin spiders, are 1/4 to 3/4 inch in length, and have a violin-shaped marking that spreads over their combined head and thorax area. Unlike most spiders, which have eight eyes, brown recluse spiders have six eyes: one pair in the front, and one pair on each side. They are generally tan colored, although cream, dark brown, and dark gray brown recluses have been spotted. Their abdomens are covered in short, fine hair that almost looks like fur. Brown recluse spiders typically live between 2 and 4 years, and can survive drought and near starvation conditions for as long as six months.
While most spiders stay close to their nests at night, brown recluse spiders are nocturnal and leave their webs at night to hunt insects. During the day, they prefer to remain in warm, dark, sheltered areas, spinning their irregular webs. They can be found in garages, attics, closets, woodpiles and woodsheds, shoes, and bed sheets, behind baseboards, and in other such areas. Brown recluse spiders use their webs primarily to form egg sacs, and not to capture prey.
Brown recluse spiders are native to southern Midwest United States, including Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas. They have occasionally been spotted outside of the southern Midwest states, but these sightings have generally been due to the fact that the spiders have been accidentally transported across state lines by humans.
Brown recluse spiders are not aggressive, and will generally flee if threatened. However, if they are pressed against skin, perhaps resting in a shoe that a person tries to put on, for instance, they can bite. They have extremely tiny fangs, so many people initially do not even feel a prick. However, within 2 to 8 hours, the area around the bite becomes inflamed, red, and itchy. Many spider bites heal on their own within a few weeks, but some become worse as time goes on, becoming more painful. Symptoms may include dizziness, vomiting, rash, and fever. In some cases, necrosis, or tissue death, occurs in the surrounding area, and can spread, leaving scars many inches long. In small children, the bite may even be fatal. Therefore, individuals bitten by brown recluse spiders should seek immediate medical attention.
Homeowners who suspect that they may have brown recluse infestations should examine dark, dry areas that brown recluses are likely to inhabit, and should look for both the spiders and their molted skins.
Homeowners looking to prevent brown recluse spiders from entering their homes should seal up small cracks through which the spiders can enter, and remove clutter in which the spiders may build their nests. They may also put glue boards, which may be used to trap the spiders, in key places throughout the home. Additionally, brown recluse spiders are susceptible to many insecticides currently on the market. Individuals who have severe brown recluse infestations in their homes should consider calling in licensed professionals to handle the matter.