Arachnophobia may have been an underrated 90’s horror film, but it is also a very real fear for 9% of Americans. On the bright side, unless you live in Australia, this fear is largely unfounded since, of the roughly 34,000 discovered species of spider, only a dozen are harmful to humans. One such spider known to pack as much bite as it does bark (No, not Selenocosmia Crassipes) is the Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa).
This relatively small arachnid contains a venom more potent than that of a rattlesnake, but because of the tiny amounts of venom injected, the bite is rarely fatal to humans. On the downside, this venom has been known to attack and destroy cell membranes, ultimately leading to necrosis. As such, if you suspect you have a Brown Recluse infestation, you need to take the proper steps toward verification immediately.
How to Identify a Brown Recluse
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To the untrained eye, spiders are very much like floral patterns- they all look alike. However, proper identification of the type of spider infesting your property is essential in its effective removal. When attempting to determine if your spider is in fact, a Brown Recluse, glue traps prove indispensable. Once you have one immobilized, keep an eye out for these characteristics:
- First, check this map. If you don’t live in the South, Midwest, Texas, or the Southwest desert climes, you probably don’t have a Brown Recluse.
- This arachnid has six eyes rather than the standard eight, with one set in the center, and one pair slightly behind and on either side.
- There will be a dark, violin shape on the cephalothorax, which is the fused head and thorax region. However, this discoloration is often misidentified.
- Check the legs, which will be the same color as the body, and will feature fine hairs but no spines.
- Though dangerous, this spider is only about the size of a quarter. You won’t find one the size of it’s reputation.
- Possessing an antisocial temperament, these spiders will not build webs in plain sight where they can be easily seen.
- Ranging from a yellowish brown to dark chocolate, the color of the spider depends largely upon diet.
- Brown Recluses have oval shaped abdomens.
Why You Need to be Concerned About a Recluse Infestation
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Sure, maybe the pain associated with the initial bite is so minor that many do not even notice they were bitten until much later, and the Brown Recluse has been known to eat insects and even small rodents, but this should not have them confused with some benevolent, symbiotic agreement between yourself and the spider.
While it is true that many bites heal on their own, the potent venom of the Brown Recluse can become intensely painful over time, has been known to transform into large, ulcer-like wounds, and can cause tissue death as well as other serious complications- all of which are scenarios most would like to avoid if at all possible.
With that in mind, here are a few other facts that you need to know about Brown Recluse spiders that will demonstrate exactly why you should be wary of even a single one of these arachnids in your home or on your property:
- A single female can give birth to 150 new spiders in a single year, and typically lays eggs in the early summer.
- In addition to being shy, the Brown Recluse is nocturnal, and has been known to bite people in their sleep.
- Much like the rest of us, these spiders prefer to be indoors, and are fond of dark spaces such as attics, basements, closets, bathrooms, air ducts, sheds, barns, etc.
Ridding Your Home or Property of Brown Recluses
Ideally, you have been able to use the above mentioned bullet points to confirm that you do not have a Brown Recluse living with you. If, however, the opposite is true and you have corroborated an infestation, you will want to take steps to remove any and all member of this species from your home or property. Here are a few steps to follow on your warpath:
- Pretend it’s Spring and start deep cleaning, paying particular attention to those hard to reach nooks and crannies.
- Always wear gloves and cover as much of your exposed skin as possible. While no one will judge you for showing up in a containment suit or beekeeper outfit, this amounts to overkill as the small fangs typical of this spider won’t allow it to puncture even lightweight clothing. A mixture of bleach and water is reportedly as good at repelling these spiders as it is at disinfecting.
- Check in corners, around baseboards, in closets, dressers, and boxes.
- Also check in bathrooms, in the shower, bathtub, and around toilets.
- When searching in closets, don’t forget to look inside hanging and folded clothes, as well as shoes.
- Couches and recliners also make ideal hiding spaces for this socially inept arachnid.
If at any point you come into contact with a Brown Recluse, try to avoid the hit-or-miss shoe method of disposal and instead gas them with Zenprox Aerosol. Remember also that these are nocturnal creatures and will most likely be away from their webs in the evening hours. If you want to catch them sleeping, day time is the right time.
Once you have inspected these favored habitats and removed any Recluses that you do see, experts recommend utilizing some type of spray barrier that will deter any other arachnids from entering your home. This site provides an excellent breakdown of products available to consumers. That same website should give you an idea of what kind of insecticide you want to apply to the interior of your home- a spray or a dust. As a tip, dusts may leave behind more residue, but they are better at penetrating cracks and entering those hard to reach areas.
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What to Do if Bitten by a Brown Recluse
The first thing to do if you are bitten by a Brown Recluse is to remain calm. Freaking out does not help. After gathering your senses:
- Wash the affected area with soap and water.
- Apply ice.
- Elevate the bite.
- Seek medical attention.
If you notice the bite at the time it occurs, take the spider with you to the hospital, as it can be difficult for even the most highly qualified physician to diagnose a Brown Recluse bite from simply looking at the wound. This difficulty stems from the fact that many other medical conditions can present as a Brown Recluse bite.
The Last Bite
As you can see, there are many reasons why a Brown Recluse infestation may not be as desirable as, say, a Koala infestation. So if you suspect that you might be inadvertently harboring one of these arachnids, the steps outlined in this article should help you determine whether you have a Recluse, or something else, and then what steps you should take afterward. If at all possible, the safest and most effective way to handle any type of infestation is to consult a professional
They also exist on the west coast.