Tips to Identify a Brown Recluse

The brown recluse spider is a venomous spider that is often times referred to as the violin or fiddle back spider, due to the fact that it carries a violin-shaped marking on its back. This spider is also unusual because it has only six eyes, whereas most spiders have eight. Knowing how to identify a brown recluse spider could help you avoid any unpleasant encounters. Here are a few tips to help.

Where do brown recluse spiders live?

These spiders are commonly found in 15 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Brown recluse spiders may be transported from one location to another in boxes and other items.

What color is it?

A brown recluse has a tan to brown colored body. Its legs are the same light-colored brown with no other markings.

How can you locate its distinctive markings?

When determining how to identify a brown recluse spider, one of the most common ways is to look at the marking on its body. The violin shape should be relatively easy to distinguish if you look closely. This violin shape stands out because it’s much darker than the rest of the body. The marking is located on the top area of the spider, also known as the cephalothorax.

Does the body have any hair?

The brown recluse’s body is covered with a number of fine, small hairs that look somewhat like fur. The legs of the spider are smooth.

How big is it?

These spiders don’t grow to be very large. With the legs extended, the brown recluse is approximately the diameter of a quarter. If the spider you’re looking at is larger than this, you’re probably looking at a different type of spider.

What do their webs look like?

Brown recluse spider webs are often hidden, so you may not see them. These webs also aren't used to catch prey like many other species of spiders use their webs for. Brown recluse webs are loose and sticky. The color of their web is typically off-white or grayish. Webs are usually found at ground level and are poorly organized.

Where did you find the spider?

As their name might imply, these spiders prefer to live in dark, dry, undisturbed areas. Here are a few places you are likely to find them:

  • rotting bark

  • woodpiles

  • piles of stone or rubble

  • hollow sections of trees

  • stored boxes or newspapers

  • shoes (especially those kept outside)

  • stored clothing

  • folds of drapery

  • underneath furniture

  • attics

  • crawl spaces

  • sheds

  • barns

What if I’ve been bitten?

Learning how to identify a brown recluse spider by its bite can be a challenge. Bites from the recluse are rare, despite the horror stories. Their bites are relatively painless, so you might not even know that you’ve been bitten until hours later. If you notice two fang-like punctures at the site of a bite and the area begins to form an appearance of a blister, it’s advisable to seek medical attention right away.

If you are still unsure of how to identify a brown recluse spider, call a pest management professional.