Brown Recluse Spider

There are actually several species "recluse" spiders. The one that is found most commonly in the eastern United States is Loxosceles reclusa. The adults are about 1/4-1/2 inch in length. Most people rely on seeing the familiar dark violin or fiddle-shaped mark on the top of the cephalothorax (see picture). The "neck" of the fiddle points toward the rear of the body. However, there are several species of brown-colored spiders that have markings that can easily be confused. The key characteristics of the recluse is the arrangement of its six eyes into three pairs. Brown recluse spiders are nocturnal in their feeding habits. Outdoors, they are most common under rocks, debris, wood piles, etc. Indoors, common hiding places are bathrooms, attics, cellars and storage areas. Problems most often occur when people are accidentally bitten by a recluse hiding in stored clothing, inside shoes/boots or cardboard cartons. The hands, underarms, lower abdomen and the ankles are the areas of the body most likely to be bitten.


brown recluse spider
Brown recluse (Univ. of Nebraska)

Although brown recluse spiders can be found in North Carolina, they are simply not very common. There are several spiders that closely resemble the brown recluse. Misidentification can cause unnecessary fear and anxiety. CLICK HERE to view an article by Dr.Rick Vetter (U-Calif. Riverside) about recluse misidentification. Also, "identification" of brown recluse spider "infestations" is often based on what appears to be a bite. While recluse bites are somewhat characteristic (see information below), other diseases caused by a variety of pathogens, particularly bacteria such as MRSA, may create wounds that look like a brown recluse bite. Whether it is a brown recluse bite or another organism, always seek prompt medical assistance.

A brown recluse bite may go unnoticed for 3-8 hours, before the bite area reddens, swells and becomes tender. Blistering of the wound will start to appear. In some instances, a bite victim may become feverish and feel nauseous. A necrotic lesion (i.e., an area of dead skin tissue) may develop and require surgery. Although an antidote has been developed, it is not widely available and it appears to be most effective before the lesion develops. In some cases, antibiotics and the drug Dapsone may be used successfully to treat the bites without surgery, but these decisions are made after careful diagnosis by a doctor. Prompt medical attention is critical to successful chemical or surgical treatment of the bite.

brown recluse spider bite
Brown recluse spider bite

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