How To Identify A Brown Recluse Spider
Winter weather means that basement workshops see a lot more use than during the warmer months. This is a time to catch up on forgotten projects. It’s also a great chance to disturb spiders and other tiny creatures that have settled among the clutter and the spare parts.
In some areas, this includes the brown recluse spider. While these spiders are not aggressive, they can deliver a nasty bite and should be treated with respect. Here are some ways to find out if you have brown recluse spiders lurking in that scrap lumber.
Step one: Check to see if you live in brown recluse territory. This spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is only known to live in the central United States. If you are outside of this region, you probably have a different kind of spider in your basement.
Step two: Catch the spider.
Never attempt to grab an unknown spider with your hands. Instead, scoop it up with a plastic container or a paper cup with a lid.
Step three: Examine the spider.
You’re going to be checking a number of things, so it’s important to take your time. If possible, put the spider in a clear glass jar so you can examine it without losing it or risking a bite. Remember to put holes in the lid. It may not be necessary to kill the spider. Use a magnifying glass and a strong light.
There are many brownish spiders, but the brown recluse has some characteristics that make it easy to identify. If the creature you caught matches several of these, contact your university extension for proper identification.
What to look for
Color. This will be a dusty brown, in some cases shading to a dark brown or orangish color.
Size. Look for long, slender legs on a body about 3/8 of an inch long.
Hairs. The legs will be covered with short, fine hairs. There will be no spines or other projections — if you see these, let the spider go. It’s harmless.
Markings. Where insects have three body segments, the head, thorax and abdomen, spiders only have two. The head and thorax are combined into a segment called the cephalothorax. It can be identified by the fact that this is where the legs are attached to the spider’s body. The brown recluse has a violin-shaped marking on the back of the cephalothorax. The neck of the violin will point toward the spider’s abdomen.
Eyes. Most spiders have eight eyes. The brown recluse has six, arranged in pairs. These can easily be seen with a magnifying glass. Look for a pattern that has two outer pairs of eyes, with the third pair between and below them.
Not a brown recluse
The spider is not a brown recluse if it has a violin on its abdomen, more than six eyes, shaggy legs, or short, stubby legs. In those cases, you’ve probably found the basement guardians that are keeping the crickets from taking over your house.
Still, this is probably a good time to clear out those old projects, and to contact a company like Killingsworth Pest Control, Inc. if you have an abundance of creepy creatures in your basement.