Brown recluse spiders have become one of the most feared species of spider present within Oklahoma and the American South. This venomous spider has become infamous through stories or skin decay associated with its bite and many people claiming to know someone that has experienced the phenomena firsthand, or more often secondhand. Though this spider has developed a reputation, it is generally content avoiding contact with humans whenever possible.
The brown recluse spider, or fiddleback, is characterized by the violin or fiddle-shaped marking located on its cephalothorax (The fusion of the head and thorax). Depending on the age of the spider, these violin markings can take on different intensities of shading. The violin pattern found on a brown recluse will always point away from the spider’s head, towards the abdomen.
The violin shape characteristic of this species is sometimes hard to identify, therefore the easiest method of determining whether or not the spider is a brown recluse is to examine the spider’s eyes. Unlike most spider species that have eight separate eyes, the brown recluse instead has six. This is one of the brown recluses most distinct physical characteristics.
Most spider’s eyes are arranged in rows of four, with eight eyes total. The brown recluse’s eyes are arranged in dyads, however. This means that six equal-sized eyes form a semicircle around the head of this spider. This characteristic is found within the Sicariidae family of venomous spiders possessing necrotic bites.
Brown recluse spiders are also defined by the color of their abdomen, with shading varying from each individual spider in this species to another. The color of a brown recluse will range from a sandy brown to a dirt like appearance. The abdomen of these spiders is covered in very fine hairs which make it look like velvet, however, it does not have spines on its body or legs as seen in other species of spiders.
Male brown recluse spiders are typically smaller than females but have longer legs. This characteristic also helps in the identification of these species. The average brown recluse spider will typically measure three-eighths of an inch long and three-sixteenths of an inch wide.
The brown recluse received its name from its shy nature. As with most spiders, the idea of confronting something much larger than them, such as humans, isn’t an intriguing prospect. In most cases, the only reason a spider will bite a human is when they feel threatened. It is important to remember that in most cases, a spider is more afraid than a human is during contact and will go out of their way to avoid interaction.
Most often, brown recluse spiders will be found in dark places that offer seclusion. Areas such as deep closets offer the perfect environment for this species, as do the underside of porches. Brown recluses can also be found beneath trash cans and tires. Because of this species affinity for darkness, they are a primarily nocturnal spider.
The primary source of travel for brown recluse spiders is hitchhiking. When boxes are moved from infested areas, chances are a spider will be inside that box to tag along and colonize new areas. This hearty species can go months without eating and have adapted to extreme heat and drought-like conditions.
Control of large populations of brown recluse spiders can be difficult due to their nocturnal activity and avoidance of humans. Upon mating one time, females are able to produce eggs throughout the entirety of their life. This can be particular disturbing since the average female in this species can hatch 150, more, spiderlings annually.
In the world of brown recluse spiders, males are required to impress females before she will mate with him. During mating seasons, male spiders will try to impress females by performing a mating dance or bringing the female a gift of food. If the female is not receptive, the male spider will try to find a new female to mate with.
Eggs – After successfully reproducing once, female brown recluses can generate around 50 eggs at a time. Generally, brown recluse females will lay eggs from May to July. Females may lay eggs several times within these months to create multiple egg sacs.
Egg Sac – Brown recluse egg sacs are made from a silk-like webbing and average around two-thirds of an inch in diameter. The eggs that female spiders lay are deposited into these casings to protect them during growth. Egg sacs will most often be deposited in the natural habitat of the brown recluse spider to ensure they aren’t disturbed.
Spiderlings – Within less than a month of time, spiderlings will emerge from the egg sac. While still in the egg sac, spiderlings will undergo at least one molt before exiting. Once spiderlings emerge they will undergo, on average, seven more molts within a twelve-month period before reaching the adult stage. Development time is often dependent on the availability of food and water.
Adult – The brown recluse spider can live as long as four years within optimal conditions, however, if a brown recluse reaches adulthood they most often will only live a maximum of two years. Once in the adult stage, this species will take on a much darker hue than seen previously during early developmental stages.
The brown recluse is one of the two venomous spiders found within Oklahoma with medical significance. The venom found within this species is hemotoxic, meaning it targets and destroys red blood cells and damages tissue. In rare cases, hemotoxic venom can cause organ degeneration.
In most cases, the bite of a brown recluse spider will not be immediately felt, but the venom injected can cause serious problems. Most bites, however, are not serious but a small number can cause severe cases of localized necrosis. Recent studies have shown that skin necrosis was present 37% of the time with clinically diagnosed brown recluse bites.
Brown recluse spider bites will generally go undetected until side effects begin appearing. After the initial bite takes place, symptoms can take hours to be noticeable. Bite sites will begin reddening and swelling in a localized area and in some cases a blister may develop. These symptoms are generally accompanied by nausea, fever, convulsions, itching and muscle pain.
When an individual has a severe reaction to a brown recluse spider bite painful open wounds will appear due to tissue necrosis associated with the introduction of venom into the skin. Wounds will appear purple and black as the skin and tissue begin to die. When this condition is untreated, wounds can worsen to decompose deep tissue. Necrosis associated spider bite wounds can result in deep scarring and often require skin grafting to treat.
For Individuals who suspect they have been bitten by a brown recluse, medical attention is encouraged. Misdiagnosis of certain medical conditions have been attributed to brown recluse bites such as bacterial infections, skin lesions, allergic reactions and chemical burns. In many cases, suspected bites are often found to be caused by another issue.
There is currently no known antivenom available within the United States that counteracts the effects of a brown recluse bite. In most cases, brown recluse bites will not exhibit severe symptoms and can be treated with general care and pain relievers. If an individual is suffering from symptoms a medical professional should be contacted for treatment.
When dealing with brown recluse spider prevention, the advice is generally not much different than associated with the average spider. Although the brown recluse is more feared than the average spider, it is a spider nonetheless. These common spider prevention techniques can help keep brown recluse spiders out of your home.
Eliminate Hiding Spots – Brown recluse spiders look for dark, secluded areas to create webs for nesting locations. Clearing debris and food sources that may otherwise entice them to stay can help discourage brown recluse spiders from staying in these locations. The removal of items such as resting trash cans and old tires is encouraged as they are also suitable environments for brown recluse spiders to flourish.
Seal Cracks – Often spiders will find their way indoors through cracks and holes that provide access inside. To fill these holes, use caulk to make entry less likely. Venting and chimneys also provide easy access to a wide variety of arachnids and should be covered with mesh insect screens.
Clear Debris Piles – Vegetation provides an excellent hiding spot around a home for a variety of pests, brown recluse spiders included. Removing mulch, stones, and leaves near the home will eliminate spots for spiders to hide. Clearing vegetation that connects to the home will eliminate transit lines to a home.
Maintain Cleanliness – A clean home is less likely to be attractive to pests because food sources will be more scarce. Clutter provides ideal hiding spaces for spiders, as many prefer dark places for shelter. An abundance of cardboard boxes in areas such as a garage or attic can provide endless hiding spots for spiders.
Spider Traps – Spider traps can be used as a catching method much like cockroach traps. These adhesive traps work to bind the spiders to the glue surface and, as a result, kill them. These glue traps should be discarded and replaced when spiders become prevalent on their surface.
Remove Webs – Egg sacs, and spider webs they are attached to are easily removed with a vacuum. This can be very effective for removing spiders that are generally not at ground level. Typically, this method of prevention is not effective if large populations of spiders are already present.
Apply Insecticide – If prone to spider infestations, homeowners may elect to apply insecticide to corners and cracks that may be utilized by spiders. It is important to remember that the insecticide you use must be pet-friendly if you have pets within the home. In general, the most commonly used insecticides against spiders contain pyrethroid in some form.
Peppermint Oil – One idea that has become popular is spreading a mixture of peppermint oil and water around potential transit areas. It has been said that spiders can detect the smell of peppermint oil and find it intolerable. Some homeowners say that eucalyptus and tea tree oil will have the same effect.
Diatomaceous Earth – Diatomaceous earth is a powder made by naturally-formed fossils. This powder cuts the exoskeleton of spiders, and other low-bodied pests, to induce death. When the exoskeleton gets cut, bodily fluids begin to leak and the spider dies from dehydration.
Contact an Exterminator – Spider infestations can take their toll on homeowners. In some cases, preventative measure or exterminator intervention may be required. Arrow Exterminators has over 60 years’ experience in providing Oklahoma brown recluse spider control. We understand that spiders are essential to controlling bugs and keeping Oklahoma healthy; however, if you have brown recluse spiders in your home, you undoubtedly understand the importance of spider control.
Ask the Entomologist
Male Brown Recluse will venture out twice as far as females when hunting. When you find a recluse hiding in your shoes, clothes or bedding, it’s almost always a male!
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We hope this information helps you prevent brown recluse infestations and keeps your home free from infestations all year long. If you are struggling with a brown recluse problem in your home or business, give us a call or visit our website to start a no obligation brown recluse evaluation. The talented technicians at Arrow Exterminators can identify any type of pest and identify the best course of treatment to get rid of it. We’ll create a custom pest control plan to make sure we eliminate every last one from your home and keep them away for good! You can call our trained pest control experts at any time with questions about pest control methods or pest prevention techniques. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more pest prevention tips and tricks. Contact Arrow Exterminators and our spider control experts will get you the help you need right away. Whether it’s a private residence, dormitory, hotel or any other type of property. Arrow Exterminators has been eliminating spiders all over Oklahoma since 1952. We know spider control.