Characteristics of Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown recluse spiders get their name because of their color and because of the fact that they prefer to be reclusive and stay hidden. They range in color from a yellowish or tan to a darker brown. Many people are familiar with the unique marking on the top of the brown recluse that is shaped like a fiddle or violin. This marking is also brown in color, but darker than the rest of the spider.

Adult brown recluse spiders range from ¼” to 0.5″ in size. Including its legs, the spider reaches about an inch in diameter, sometimes greater. Males are slightly smaller than the females, but have longer legs. Young spiders look a great deal like the adults except that they are lighter in color and smaller.

Brown recluse spiders prefer to live in places where they can hide and will not be disturbed. Indoors, they can be found in less frequented areas such as basements or attics. They like to hide in boxes or other storage places, and can be found in closets where household items are stored. For example, a person may encounter a brown recluse while putting on a pair of shoes or item of clothing that has not been worn for a long time.

Outdoors, they prefer to hide in areas such as under rocks, logs, or piles of firewood. They may also be found in sheltered areas such as sheds or barns. Brown recluse spiders hunt for their prey-preferring small, live insects-but they do spin webs as a place of retreat.

The brown recluse is one of only a few poisonous spiders found in the United States. When a person is bitten by a brown recluse, the bite can develop into a large, open ulcer. The venom can causes necrosis, which is the death or decay of a person's tissue. If a reaction is severe, the wound can expose underlying tissue or even bone. However, bites are rarely fatal, and some people do not experience these types of wounds, even if they are bitten.

The brown recluse can be found from the lower Midwest, roughly Iowa to Ohio, and southward to Georgia, over to Texas, and northward into southeastern Nebraska.