The Brown Recluse spider, also known as the Violin Spider, is generally found throughout the southern American states and west to California. The reach, or range, of this spider is stable and it is unlikely to be found outside of those states listed below. A relative, the Desert Recluse spider, is more common in the drier western U.S. and is commonly mistaken for the Brown Recluse.
Identifying features of the Brown Recluse spider include a brown-to-gray abdomen, lighter coloring on the legs, and an orange-to-yellow cephalothorax with what can appear to be violin-shaped pattern on top of the spider (see photo), with the base of the 'violin' sitting on the eyes, and the neck of the 'violin' pointing back toward the abdomen. Every Brown Recluse has that violin feature, but some people believe they see it on other, harmless spiders causing themselves unnecessary confusion and panic. For this reason, specialists recommend checking the eye pattern (see second photo) of the spider to be more certain that it is an actual Brown Recluse. The six eyes are in pairs, with one in the front center of the head and the other two pairs flanking the sides.
These spiders generally inhabit loose piles of debris outside. If indoors, they may be found lying on or inside furniture as well as within undisturbed clothing. Many bite victims put on clothing that was left on the floor and are bitten as a defense against pressure and crushing felt by the spider inside them.
This spider is not naturally aggressive and does not seek out human victims. A young family in 2001 living in Lenexa, Kansas had no issues with the arachnid during the 5 years they lived with an infestation. Scientists from the University of California helped them trap, kill and collect over 2,000 Brown Recluse spiders during a 6 month period there.
Brown Recluse venom is known to cause necrosis in human tissue. A hemotoxin present in the venom of the Brown Recluse can destroy the tissue surrounding a bite. Infection can then set in and cause even more damage to tissues and possibly spread to organs. The wound develops a crusty-like appearance and texture surrounded by patches of redness and irritation. Though this crust eventually falls off, it leaves behind a deep, crater-like shape which may not completely heal for a period of months.
The good news is that over half of the known Brown Recluse spider bites on record caused no reaction in their victims and the bites healed nicely on their own. Other victims reacted only mildly with some redness and pain that developed over a few hours. Some perceived spider bites were actually other, already-present infections (like Staph) that were misdiagnosed by the victim. An ELISA-test (scientific test that analyzes the proteins in substance) can confirm if venom belongs to a Brown Recluse, but unfortunately, this test is a lab-based test not available at doctor's offices.
If one suspects he/she has been bitten by a Brown Recluse spider, effort should be made to capture the spider alive or undamaged in a jar or bottle for proper identification. One can destroy important identifying features by crushing the spider to death. The University of California - Riverside suggests simple first aid (RICE): Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Medical attention is strongly recommended if a Brown Recluse bite is confirmed especially if symptoms of pain and inflammation persist or increase. Every human body reacts differently. A medical professional can help relieve symptoms and prevent further medical problems.
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