Spotting a Brown recluse may be harder than one might think. As their name implies, they’re reclusive—and they like it that way. Knowing what they look like can help, though. Not many people know the Brown recluse as the “Violin spider” or the “Fiddleback spider,” but remembering such nicknames can help in identifying this cloistral arachnid. Why? Because the Brown recluse’s most characteristic feature is a violin pattern on the top of the spider near the head, or cephalothorax. While this pattern is sure to be found on most adult Brown recluses, some young Brown recluses may be lacking the fiddle-like figure. It is also noted that the baby brown recluse does not have many of the characteristics of a mature brown recluse.
The violin pattern is itself not wholly diagnostic. Brown recluses also have a unique set of eyes. When examined closely, one will observe that the Brown recluse has not eight eyes like the typical spider but three pairs of eyes (that’s a total of six, if you’re counting).
Ranging in size from one-forth to three-fourth inches long, Brown recluses are normally light- to medium-brown with the violin marking being black, but have been known to be cream-colored to brownish-black.
Where does the Brown Recluse live, and what does it eat?
Brown recluse spiders are endemic to the central Midwest: from Nebraska to Texas (north-south) and Ohio to Georgia (east-west). Brown recluse bites have been reported elsewhere but are more likely a result of misidentification than the spreading of the species.
As their name suggests, the Brown recluse is most commonly found lurking in places likely to be undisturbed (sound like anyone you know?) Closets, sheds, garages, dark corners, and cellars are the recluses’ favorite hideouts, but they have been known to nestle up in shoes, stacks of clothes, between sheets, and in dresser drawers. Most human-to-Brown recluse contact occurs when the spider’s seclusion is disturbed, causing the spider to feel threatened. The Brown recluse builds a web of threads resulting in an irregular, disorderly sort of snare.
The Brown recluse feeds on insects and other arthropods. The spider will occasionally bite humans and animals, but more as a defense mechanism than a significant source of nutrients.
How long will the typical Brown Recluse live?
Perhaps indicative of its habitat, the Brown recluse is a resilient species, with the ability to withstand severe drought and lack of food. For this reason these spiders will live on average one to two years. Female Brown recluses produce multiple egg sacs usually in the summer months. At approximately 50 eggs per sac, the spider eggs will hatch in about one month, and brand new Brown recluses will be crawling into shoes and sheets within one year of hatching.
Are Brown Recluse Spiders Venomous?
Although Brown recluse bites are fairly uncommon, they are indeed venomous. The Brown recluse likes to be left alone (yes, they are reclusive), so they will typically not bite unless pressed up against the skin. Most Brown recluse bites reported occurred after putting on a long-forgotten pair of shoes or clothing left lying on the floor for some time.
While the majority of Brown recluse bites are minor and exhibit no symptoms, bites are potentially very dangerous and can even be deadly. Occasionally necrosis, or cell tissue damage, can occur as a result of a Brown recluse bite. If necrosis results, skin lesions form, at times taking months to heal and leaving scars. Such lesions destroy soft tissue and will become itchy and painful within the first eight hours of the bite. Pain and itchiness worsens between 12 and 36 hours after a bite, with necrosis or tissue damage coming next. If left untreated, lesions may grow as large as 10 inches becoming diseased and eventually sloughing off. Systemic symptoms may occur if tissue damage has enough time to spread. Such symptoms include muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. It is important to note that most Brown Recluse bites are not of a serious nature, but should be treated all the same. The age of the victim has some determination in the seriousness of a bite with more pronounced symptoms occurring in young children and infants.
How Are Brown Recluse bites treated?
Before seeking treatment for a Brown recluse bite, first make note of some important information: what time and where on the body the bite occurred, the age, weight, and overall health condition of the victim, and description of the spider (catch and trap the bugger if at all possible.) If a bite occurs, immediately contact a medical professional. In the meantime, apply ice locally to the bite, elevate the area, and stay calm. Do not apply a tourniquet or other compressive techniques. Brown recluse bites should never be left unattended.
Brown recluse spiders have a wide range of habitat in the United States and have proven to be a danger to humans and animals through their venomous bites. If you believe you have a problem with Brown recluse spiders, seek professional help or employ some method of extermination. Always put in place proper prevention methods to keep your home safe from these venomous intruders.
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