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BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER
The brown recluse is brown and (surprise) reclusive. The body of an adult brown recluse is light brown, except for a darker, violin-shaped marking on the back, immediately behind its eyes. Note: Young Brown Recluse spiders will NOT have the tell-tale violin. An even more important identifier is the number and arrangement of the eyes. Unlike most spiders which have 8 eyes, brown recluse spiders have 6 eyes arranged in three pairs. Note also that the legs of brown recluse are not spiny or banded like those of many spiders it is often confused with.
The females build flat, sheet-like webs, or “retreats,” that may help them capture prey. However, the brown recluse should be thought of as a hunting spider because males roam in search of prey.
Brown recluse are most active at night. During the day they rest in hidden locations within the structures they infest. They are fond of building their retreats and resting on wooden surfaces, such as inside furniture, cardboard boxes, wall voids and in the wood framing of crawlspaces, basements and attics.
Most infested structures did not become so by brown recluse traveling over land from one house to another. Brown recluse do not “balloon,” that is, they do not use silk strands to disperse by wind as other spiders do. Most structures become infested when brown recluse “hitchhike” indoors on furniture, boxes and other items from infested structures. The spiders are well-adapted for establishing themselves by hitchhiking. They are long-lived, can go for many months without eating, and are adapted to the hot, dry conditions found in many structures. Female brown recluse needs to mate only once to produce eggs throughout her life, and can produce 150 or more spiderlings in a year. Thus, a single female hitchhiking into a structure is all it takes to establish an infestation. The need to inspect items before moving them in is clear.
Once established within a structure, brown recluse are difficult to control. Though hundreds of brown recluse may be present in a house, they may not be easily observed because of their reclusive, nocturnal habits. Even when exposed, brown recluse are fast runners and difficult to catch with a vacuum cleaner, fly swatter or shoe.
Management plans employing only one means of control, such as spraying baseboards, will fail.
Get rid of hiding places. Typical hiding places include garages, crawlspaces, attics, wall voids, cracks and voids around fireplaces, cabinets, furniture, boxes and stored goods. The importance of eliminating clutter from the structure is paramount. Boxes and other items stored for long periods of time are great hiding places for brown recluse. Stored goods should be eliminated or placed in plastic bags, tubs or other containers that seal tightly.
Cracks and crevices should be sealed with caulk, expandable foam, weather stripping, screen or other materials to prevent the spiders from entering them and gaining access to structural voids. Seal around fireplaces, vents, door and window frames, crawlspace and attic doors, and where cabinets, counters and baseboards meet walls, to permanently prevent brown recluse, and other pests as well, from harboring there.
STICKY TRAPS. Sticky traps are similiar to fly paper or glue traps. Sticky traps fold into little boxes or triangles that help to cover and protect the adhesive from dust and dirt.They will stop brown recluse “in their tracks” and help control other pests the spiders may use as food. Keep the traps out of the reach of pets and small children. Place them on the floor against walls, behind furniture and in other out-of-the-way locations where brown recluse are likely to travel.
Though sticky traps may be less than attractive in your living room, you cannot use too many of them. Using 50 or more in a typical home should not be considered excessive. The more traps you place, the more likely you are to catch the spiders. Not only do the traps kill brown recluse, they also help pinpoint brown recluse activity, thus where to focus pestiside application.
Pesticides are often a necessary part of brown recluse management. Applications should be targeted on cracks and voids – where brown recluse are known or suspected to be. A larger volume of pesticides may be called for in infested crawlspaces and attics, or around foundation perimeters when brown recluse are found living around a structure’s exterior. Encapsulated formulations of residual pesticides are effective in this role. In additon, pesticides in powdered form are a good choice for treating spaces such as wall voids.
The use of aerosol foggers is generally ineffective because brown recluse may be hidden so deeply inside items that the “fog” cannot contact them, and those spiders that are contacted may not be killed but driven deeper into hiding. Directed space treatments, where the fog is injected into voids, may achieve better results, though this type of treatment typically requires professionals.
Eliminating brown recluse spiders from an infested structure may take months. The bad news is that it may be virtually impossible, short of an expensive fumigation of the premises, to completely eradicate brown recluse from some structures. The good news, such as it is, is that persons living even in heavily infested structures are very rarely bitten by brown recluse.
Brown recluse do bite people. And the bites can result in serious medical complications including disfiguring wounds. However, bites are uncommon – even though brown recluse are common in some parts of the United States. The spider is, after all, reclusive, not aggressive toward people, and prefers to run rather than bite. This explains why people can live in a house with thousands of brown recluse, without being bitten. Bites typically occur when the spider is trapped between the skin and clothing or bedding. Therefore, clothing and bedding, especially those that have not been used for awhile, should be inspected prior to use in infested structures.
Many brown recluse bites result in only redness and swelling around the bite and are no more serious than a bee sting. The severity of the wound may depend on the amount of venom injected. Male brown recluse probably account for most bites because they roam more than females and are often encountered. Males possess about half as much venom as females, and may produce bites that are less severe.
Most brown recluse bites do not result in the large, necrotic wounds often depicted as the typical outcome of brown recluse bites. More severe necrosis probably occurs in less than 10 percent of cases. Horrific tales of rampant necrosis from brown recluse bites causing the amputation of arms, legs and noses are undoubtedly exaggerations or attributable to uncontrolled bacterial infection or other unrelated conditions. Death from brown recluse bites has been reported, but is extremely rare and probably occurs only in very young or infirm individuals.
The brown recluse’s bite is usually painless and not felt by the bitten person. Symptoms of the bite vary but generally include the following: redness, swelling and a burning sensation developing around the bite within one hour. The red area may enlarge over the next eight hours, and the bite may blister to resemble a bad pimple. Within 24 hours the wound becomes a hardened lump up to 2 inches in diameter, and a scab forms. The wound typically heals within eight weeks.
If skin around the bite becomes purplish, necrosis is likely. If necrosis occurs, it usually does so within four days of the bite. Systemic involvement rarely develops but may include fever, nausea and cramps.
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