Brown Recluse Spiders: Facts, Bites & Symptoms

The brown recluse spider is well-known for its appearance and poisonous bite. It is the most common and widespread of the brown spiders, but it is found only in the south and central United States.

Brown recluse spiders live in a region comprising Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. According to the entomology department at the University of California, Riverside, if you do not live in those areas, “it is highly unlikely that you have a recluse spider. It is possible but incredibly unlikely.”

Appearance

The brown recluse is part of the Loxosceles genus of spiders. Members of this group have violin-shaped markings on the top of their cephalothorax (fused head and thorax) and may be informally referred to as fiddleback or violin spiders, according to The Ohio State University Extension Entomology Department.

The brown recluse’s violin marking can vary in intensity depending on the age of the spider, with mature spiders typically having dark violin shapes, according to The Ohio State University. The violin shape points toward the spider’s bulbous abdomen. The violin shape is easy to misinterpret, so it is best to look at the eyes when determining if a spider is a brown recluse.

The recluse’s eyes are one of its most distinctive physical characteristics. “They have six eyes, instead of eight like most spiders,” said entomologist Christy Bills, invertebrate collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Other types of spiders have eight eyes arranged in rows of four. Recluses, however, have six equal-size eyes arranged in three pairs, called dyads, in a semicircle around the front of the cephalothorax.

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