Brown Recluse Spiders Loxosceles reclusa belong to the
group of spiders known by several names: “brown” spiders, “violin”
spiders, “recluse” spiders, and “fiddle” back spiders. There are,
depending upon who you ask about a dozen species of “recluse” spiders
in the US all belonging to the genus Loxosceles. The name
recluse comes from the reclusive nature of this spider. It prefers
undisturbed and protected habitats. Outdoors, it can be found living in
treeholes, under loose bark, stones, logs, or any sheltered area, but
is rarely found living in vegetation. Indoors, the spider is found in
closet corners, under objects, and in some cases in clothing and shoes.
Brown recluse spiders have been identified in the central-south and
midwest states. They may, however, be encountered anywhere because they
can be transported inside boxes and furniture from states where the
spider is common. Spiders in the genus Loxosceles have venom
that is potentially dangerous to humans. “Recluse” spiders have a
necrotic poison that causes a sloughing off of tissue around the bite
site. The wounds can be difficult to heal with a scar forming in most
cases. The venom may also cause a systemic reaction. These spiders only
bite people when they are crushed. They are not blood feeders and
biting is their only defense. These spiders while generally not lethal
are considered a health hazard.
Brown recluse spiders have a body approximately 3/8 inch in length.
These spiders are most commonly identified by a dark marking on the
dorsal portion of the cephalothorax. This marking resembles a violin,
hence the name “violin” spiders. The neck of the violin points toward
the abdomen. The marking may be difficult to see in fully mature adult
spiders and a flashlight may be needed. The second identifying
characteristic is the eyes. Most spiders have eight eyes arranged in
some fashion. Loxosceles have six eyes arranged in pairs or
dyads with one pair in the front and one pair on each side of the head.
Both sexes construct small and irregularly shaped, whitish-grey webs.
Females are passive hunters, using their webs to catch prey. Males,
however, may leave their webs in search of nearby prey. Infestations
are comprised of approximately equal numbers of females and males, and
include all stages of developing spiders.