Most spider species are considered beneficial because they naturally prey on insects such as mosquitoes and flies. Some spiders, however, are poisonous to humans and can potentially be fatal if a bite victim does not receive medical treatment. An important aspect of protection is knowing where poisonous spiders, such as the brown recluse, tend to live.
Brown Recluse Spiders
The brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) is the most common member of the arachnid genus Loxosceles, more commonly known as "recluse spiders." All recluse spiders have a distinguishing fiddle- or violin-shaped formation on their cephalothorax, the area where the spider's head fuses with its thorax. The presence of this fiddle shape is the easiest way to identify a brown recluse or other recluse spider, though the color of the shape may be diminished on younger spiders or those that have recently molted.
Common Living Areas
As the name implies, the brown recluse is reclusive by nature and prefers secluded areas. More specifically, brown recluse spiders prefer dark and undisturbed indoor and outdoor areas such as attics, basements, crawl spaces, cellars and closets. You are also likely to find brown recluse spiders in storage boxes, shoes, clothing, folded linens and behind furniture or in barns, storage sheds, outhouses and garages. In a natural outdoor environment, brown recluse spiders are commonly found underneath woodpiles or rock piles.
Brown recluse spiders are most common in the southern United States, including Texas and Louisiana and as far north as Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Brown recluse spiders are often misidentified in states in which the spider is not common.
First Aid and Control Methods
Symptoms of a brown recluse bite may vary. Some feel no pain at all when bitten; others feel intense pain. The bite site frequently welts into a white or red bump and if left untreated, the wound could become necrotic and in extreme cases cause a "volcano wound," essentially infected flesh that rots away and reveals layers of tissue underneath. Fatalities from brown recluse bites are extremely rare, but the very young, the very old and those with diminished immune system function are at particular risk for brown recluse bite fatality. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect that you have been bitten by a brown recluse; whenever possible, bring the spider with you to the hospital to make accurate diagnosis easier.