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by Valerie

October, 2017

Brown Recluse

There is so much misinformation and paranoia about the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) that it almost doesn't seem worth the effort to spell out a few facts about this spider. Most people simply want to know if the animal they found is a recluse. Any spider found living in an orb web, having a body length longer than 1/2 inch, marked with spots, stripes or bands on its body or legs, or possessing spines on the legs, is NOT a recluse. The "violin" shape is sort of a poor description of the marking on the cephalothorax, as it looks more to me like a broom than a fiddle. It is also an unreliable character as many markings on a variety of spiders can be mistaken for this one. The brown recluse has only six eyes (not eight) and they are arranged in three pairs. It is highly unlikely that a brown recluse will be found outside its natural range.

Many wounds/bites for which a cause cannot be determined are attributed to the brown recluse because doctors often don't want to admit what they don't know. Without the offending spider and a knowledgeable identification, it's very hard to diagnose a bite accurately. The fangs of this spider are so small that they cannot penetrate clothing.

Central Texas is within the range of the recluse, but they are not often seen. The best places to look are under loose bark on dead trees. I've also found them in warehouse-type buildings or sheds, amidst stacked wood, and under rocks. They sometimes show up in garages and hidden corners of houses, such as behind boxes or paintings hanging on a wall. The spiders remain in retreats during the day and emerge at night to hunt prey, such as cockroaches, beetles, and bugs.

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