Brown Recluse

The Brown Recluse Spider is one of the few creatures in the Southeastern United States that intimidates me. This spider worries me because of the following reasons:

1)I have seen the appalling wounds that this spider can rend with a single bite.

2)It lives in my house.

Yes, it lives in my house. In fact, I surmise that it probably lives in most of the homes in the Southeastern United States- and the homeowners are probably unaware of their presence.

Homeowners can be forgiven for not knowing that they are co-habitating with Brown Recluses. Why? Recluses are small spiders and they do not build large showy webs like many other spiders. The Brown Recluse is so named because it is very reclusive. Like the mythical vampires, this arachnid hides from the light- it even shies from the artificial light of a lamp. But at night, it crawls out from under baseboards, furniture, closets, and other dark, dry confined places and begins its hunt for insects and/or spiders.

So why do they enter into houses? According to the website, Brown Recluses are synantrophic, which simply means a non-domesticated animal that lives near or with humans. In other words- humans (and by extension- their houses) attract many insects like cockroaches, moths, millipedes, and sowbugs. The Brown Recluse enters the residence to hunt for those insects.

Brown Recluse also inhabit other buildings, even schools...

In 1968, Mattoon High School in Illinois was closed by the superintendent after a biology teacher discovered a Brown Recluse in a desk drawer. Upon further investigation, the teacher found more spiders. A pest control expert was called. The exterminator determined that the school was infested with thousands of the Brown Recluses. The superintendent closed the school until a pest control company could exterminate the spiders. Fortunately, none of the students or teachers were ever bitten by the Brown Recluse.

And no one wants to be bitten by one of these spiders. No one. Let me show you why- visit this site. (WARNING: The external site documents exactly what a recluse bite does to the skin- it is a very gross and disturbing visual. The photos are not for the weak of stomach. Someone that has already visited the site asked me to include this warning. )

The good news is that the Brown Recluse isn't an aggressive spider. It prefers fleeing from a confrontation. Its main defense is hiding from people. Ironically, it is this very behavior that leads to bites. It will occasionally hide in shirts or pants that are laying on the floor in a dark closet. Or shoes. When the shoes or other articles of clothing are put on- the spider may feel threatened and therefore bite. Unfortunately, the person may not even know that they have been bitten until the skin sore begins to develop. Therefore, many experts surmise that most of the Brown Recluse bites are misdiagnosed and attributed to something else.

Interesting Brown Recluse Facts:
The scientific name for the Brown Recluse spider is Loxosceles reclusa. Loxoceles is from a Greek adjective meaning "slanting legs".

Brown Recluses belong to a family of spiders that have only have 6 eyes. Most spider species have 8 eyes.

California leads all states with the number of reported Brown Recluse bites. Experts are skeptical that the bites are actual Brown Recluse bites. Why are they skeptical? They are doubtful because the Brown Recluse spider isn't common to California.

Brown Recluses love to hide in old cardboard boxes. Why? It is thought by some that it is because cardboard is more like their natural habitat of old, decayed wood.

Video of Brown Recluse


Steve said...

Nice article. The video was nice, though disturbing. I hope the scene was "set up" since that shirt was pink and you have many daughters... not that one of your sons could not have worn that shirt.

I also liked that you had a clear shot of the "fiddle" on the back of the spider.

One thing though, please put a warning that the external site that shows the bite damage and it is graphic. I was expecting a circular area of ulcerated skin, not a rotting thumb... very gross.

Mike said...

Good article, Daniel. I didn't visit the external site as I know what the bite is like. I have a scar and an indentation in the bone in my right lower leg as a result of a recluse bite when I was in my teens. Mean spiders!

My niece was bitten in the stomach several years ago while sleeping as well so these are fairly comoon in the midwest too.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

These are the only spiders that frighten me. Never seen one and don't want to, and fear my teenage daughter might experience them first-hand if she doesn't start cleaning her room. Ick and double ick. Nice video, Daniel, although now I'm paranoid.

Daniel Spurgeon said...

I think that the older the house- the more chances for seeing the recluse in your house. Our house is 30 years old and in the woods- so it really isn't surprising that we have them. And it was in my near teen age daughters closet. (I moved the shirt to the basement so that I could video it.)

I was once in a house in South Alabama that had recluses throughout the finished basement. Lots in the bedrooms and bathroom. I went to get a towel out of the cabinet in the bathroom and a giant recluse was right on top of the towels. I slept with the lights on and didn't get under the covers. I really, really do not like these spiders.

Gerry Weitz said...

I have attended lectures by the leading authority on brown recluse spiders, Dr. Vetter, at University of California, Riverside. He gives the most hysterical lecture about thousands of arachnophobic people who are sure they found brown recluse spiders near their homes in regions where the brown recluse is just not found.

benediction said...

I found one today while cleaning out the garage.....luckily he was on a yellow shirt....or I would not have noticed him at all!

Eve said...

Wow Daniel.
I'm learning so much from your blog. It's going to take a while but I hope to learn as much as I can about all the critters here. Some I wish I didn't have to know about but believe me...I won't be leaving any clothes around on the floor and now my 11 year old daughter will be a Neat-nic for sure! I haven't looked at the external site yet...I'm afraid if I do I'll want to move back up where the winter winds never cease, and I really don't want to do that!!

edwinks said...

Thanks for the article and video. Why does the spider look blue? I have been cleaning a building I have moved into that has been deserted for a while. The spiders are endless and I am sure I have encountered some recluse. This has gotten me to start this web search and I came across your article. Not looking forward to the days, months ahead of living here with the spider population.

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