How To Identify A Brown Recluse Spider

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How To Identify A Brown Recluse Spider
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The brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is one of the most notorious venomous spiders, due to the nasty and potentially serious nature of its bite. The brown recluse has necrotic venom, which causes death and decay of flesh – and the venom is also hemotoxic – poisonous to the blood – and can be fatal. It sounds like something out of Lord Of The Rings and this spider is thus feared all over the USA – though there are many cases of false identification. There are frequent claims that the spider has been found in California, but these have been regarded as false and attributed to misidentification, even by physicians and pest control operators.

Watch out also for those phony “USA spider charts” that are full of incorrect information and list spiders not even found in the USA. You will most often see these charts with a pest control company number underneath. They want to scare you and then sell you a poison drench for your home that you will be breathing for years. Nice business model. But I digress…

The brown recluse is also known as the “fiddleback” spider due to the “violin-shaped” marking on it’s thorax – however there are other spiders that have similar markings and so this should not by itself be taken as conclusive. The other giveaway is that the brown recluse has only 3 pairs of eyes, instead of the typical 4 pairs.

Brown recluse spiders will typically attempt to run away rather than fight, and tend to hide away – hence the name – however they tend to bite if pressed, say for example if one has crawled inside your clothing and you start to press on it.

The bite may not be initially painful but after several hours will start to swell and turn red. Most bites do not cause severe reactions however some may cause severe lesions and 14% cause systemic symptoms. If there are going to be systemic effects, these may be felt rapidly as the venom spreads through the body in a matter of minutes. Fatalties are rare, and most of these are in children under the age of seven or those with a compromised immune system.

If you have a necrotic lesion it is very important to have it correctly diagnosed. For example methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) produces similar looking lesions and is very often misdiagnosed as a spider bite. MRSA can be fatal if untreated.

Other recluse spiders, such as the desert recluse (found in the deserts of southwestern United States), have been reported to have caused necrotic bite wounds, though only rarely and not with the severity of the brown recluse.

If you do happen to have an actual brown recluse in your home, it should be taken seriously as where there is one, there are typically many. The brown recluse spider is a real survivor – they are hardy and can withstand up to six months of extreme drought and absence of food.

There are precautions that can be taken to reduce the incidence of spiders in and around your property. Remove trash piles that they like to use as hideouts. Spiders love log piles so do not have logs stacked against the house. Sealing cracks in the flooring and other areas may help. Pesticide use is often ineffective and leads to a toxic home, though fumigation is regularly employed.

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How To Identify A Brown Recluse Spider
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