Brown recluse spiders: how to recognize them and treat a bite?

Spiders are good for the environment. Fear of these insects is common, but – believe it or not – most spiders can do no harm to humans. However, the brown recluse spider is a dangerous exception.


The hermit spiders, commonly known as fiddle spiders or violin spiders, belong to a variety of spiders in the genus Loxosceles. The most common and best-known species in the United States is the brown recluse spider, Loxosceles reclusa. These arachnids bear this name because of the violin-shaped marking on the dorsal surface of the cephalothorax (ie fused head and thorax).

Not every spider that is brown is a recluse. They are identified by their number and pattern of eyes. If you can get close enough, you can determine what kind of spider you are observing. The brown recluse has six eyes arranged in three pairs in a semicircular pattern. Sac spiders and funnel weaver spiders (hobo) have eight eyes arranged in two rows of four.


The brown recluse spider is usually found throughout Alabama, but is more commonly found in the northern half of the state. Preferred habitats are arid areas such as caves, rocks and piles of logs. However, these spiders may also be tempted to move into your home.

“Brown recluses are attracted to homes not because they’re after you, but because they’re after your home’s bugs,” says Alabama Cooperative Extension System Entomologist Xing Ping Hu. “They can easily enter homes through cracks in foundations, around exterior doors, vents, and even under eaves and soffits.”

These arachnids have adapted to indoor life by living in areas without air conditioning or ventilation. These spaces can include a furnace, water heater, bathrooms behind toilets and tubs and cellars. They remain active in temperatures from 45 to 110°F.

Behavior and life expectancy

The brown recluse gets its name from its shy nature. During the day, they stay in hidden, secluded locations usually in dark areas. At night, the spider wanders to prey. They are often found when they leave their refuge due to hunger, pesticide use, overcrowding or disturbances.

This spider also does not like conflict. When threatened, they usually flee, but are still able to inflict a bite in defense. Brown recluse teeth are small, so they cannot pierce clothing. People are usually bitten by a spider while putting on shoes, rolling on them while sleeping, and moving items that the spider uses as a home.

Unlike most spiders, brown recluses don’t make webs to catch prey. Instead, they build flat webs called retreats made up of silk strands. Hermits also have remarkable survival skills. For example, they can live without food and water for up to 12 months. The maximum life expectancy for a brown recluse is up to four years.

What to do when bitten?

A brown recluse bite is not painful at first; it’s the aftereffects that cause problems. Most bites usually heal within three weeks without complications. However, in some cases it can cause skin abnormalities.

The hermit’s venom is a potent cytotoxin that can cause necrotic lesions that can take months to heal. Observe the bite area for a flat or sunken bluish spot with irregular edges.

First aid for a bite should include the use of an ice pack to prevent or reduce swelling. This will also help the burning sensation after receiving a bite and reduce tissue damage.

Hu says all victims of brown recluse spiders should seek medical treatment from licensed doctors. If possible, catch the spider – dead or alive – and take it to the doctor for confirmation of the species.

Brown Recluse Check

Recluses can be difficult to control once established in a home. If chemical treatment is preferred, it is recommended that it be performed by a professional pest control service.

According to Hu, controlling these arachnids requires an integrated pest management plan (IPM). Check out the checklist below to create a plan for your home.

  • Plumbing and preparation. Eliminate spiders’ hiding places by clearing out closets and storage areas and areas. Also remove food sources for spiders by removing dead and live insects.
  • Inspection. Thorough inspection with a bright flashlight to reveal the location and level of contamination is the first step in effective management. Inspection should focus on possible spider habitats. Search indoors for spiders, egg sacs, and barn spider skins in undisturbed storage areas. These places include closets, crevices behind furniture and beds, behind hanging paintings, clothes, shoes, and especially storage boxes and boxes.
  • Monitoring. Sticky spider traps and flat glue boards are excellent non-chemical ways to facilitate visual inspection. Professional pest control services can also use flushing agents as a monitoring tool to locate breeding areas.
  • Exclusion. Deny the spiders access to houses and shelters. Seal cracks and crevices in the structure where spiders can gain access to the house.
  • Chemicals. Pesticides labeled for spider control are often needed for severe brown recluse infestations. Hiring a professional pest controller is an option that should be seriously considered when applying chemicals.

More information

Spiders are not for everyone. However, it is crucial to positively identify venomous species such as the brown recluse. To learn more about spiders and other insects you may find in your home, visit the Alabama Extension website at

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