BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER
The brown recluse belongs to a group of spiders that is officially known as the "recluse spiders" in the genus Loxosceles
(pronounced lox-sos-a-leez). These spiders are also commonly referred to as "fiddleback" spiders or "violin" spiders because
of the violin-shaped marking on the top surface of the cephalothorax (fused head and thorax). However, this feature can be
very faint depending on the species of recluse spider, particularly those in the southwestern U.S., or how recently the spider
|not actual size|
|Recluse spiders have six eyes that are arranged in pairs.|
In the mature brown recluse spider as well as some other species of recluse spiders, the dark violin marking is well defined,
with the neck of the violin pointing toward the bulbous abdomen. The abdomen is uniformly colored, although the coloration
can range from light tan to dark brown, and is covered with numerous fine hairs that provide a velvety appearance. The long,
thin, brown legs also are covered with fine hairs, but not spines. Adult brown recluse spiders have a leg span about the size
of a quarter. Their body is about 3/8 inches long and about 3/16 inches wide. Males are slightly smaller in body
length than females, but males have proportionally longer legs. Both sexes are venomous. The immature stages closely resemble
the adults except for size and a slightly lighter color. Whereas most spiders have eight eyes, recluse spiders have six eyes
that are arranged in pairs in a semicircle on the forepart of the cephalothorax (see close-up view). A 10X hand lens or microscope
is needed to see this diagnostic feature. In order to determine the exact species of Loxosceles, the spider's genitalia
need to be examined under a high-power microscope. This requires the skills of a spider expert.
Control of indoor infestations of the brown recluse spider can take a long time (6 months or more) and can be difficult
because humans have a very low tolerance for this pest, it tends to be widely dispersed within infested buildings, and it
seeks secluded sites. Control of spiders, including the brown recluse, is best achieved by following an integrated pest management
(IPM) approach. IPM involves using multiple approaches such as preventive measures, using the Cahaba Spider Trap, that works 24 hour a day and chemical treatment when
Preventing spider bites
- Shake out clothing and shoes before getting dressed.
- Inspect bedding and towels before use.
- Wear gloves when handling firewood, lumber, and rocks (be sure to inspect the gloves for spiders before putting them on).
- Remove bedskirts and storage boxes from underneath beds. Move the bed away from the wall.
- Exercise care when handling cardboard boxes (recluse spiders often are found in the space under folded cardboard flaps).
- Place The Cahaba Small Spider Trap along walls, under beds, in closets
and any place you may need.
Install tight-fitting screens on windows and doors; also install door sweeps.
Seal or caulk cracks and crevices where spiders can enter the house.
Install yellow or sodium vapor light bulbs outdoors since these attract fewer insects for spiders to feed upon.
Tape the edges of cardboard boxes to prevent spider entry.
Use plastic bags (sealed) to store loose items in the garage, basement, and attic
Use the Cahaba Small Spider Trap out side and near entry
- Remove trash, old boxes, old clothing, wood piles, rock piles, and other unwanted items.
- Eliminate clutter in closets, basements, attics, garages, and outbuildings.
- Do not stack wood against the house.
- Clean up dead insects that the brown recluse spider can feed on.
- Use the Cahaba Small SpiderTrap under beds, in closets and any place needed to capture
- Dust and vacuum thoroughly to remove spiders, webs, and egg sacs (dispose of the vacuum bag in a container outdoors).
- Use a rolled up newspaper or fly swatter to kill individual spiders.
The physical reaction to a brown recluse spider bite depends on the amount of venom injected and an individual's sensitivity
to it. Some people are unaffected by a bite, whereas others experience immediate or delayed effects as the venom kills the
tissues (necrosis) at the site of the bite. Many brown recluse bites cause just a little red mark that heals without event.
The vast majority of brown recluse bites heal without severe scarring. Initially, the bite may feel like
a pinprick or go unnoticed. Some may not be aware of the bite for 2 to 8 hours. Others feel a stinging sensation followed
by intense pain. Infrequently, some victims experience general systemic reactions that may include restlessness, generalized
itching, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or shock. A small white blister usually initially rises at the bite site surrounded
by a swollen area. The affected area enlarges and becomes red, and the tissue is hard to the touch for some time. The lesion
from a brown recluse spider bite is a dry, blue-gray or blue-white, irregular sinking patch with ragged edges and surrounding
redness--termed the "red, white, and blue sign." The lesion usually is 1½ inches by 2¾ inches or smaller.
The bite of the brown recluse spider can result in a painful, deep wound that takes a long time to heal. Fatalities are
extremely rare, but bites are most dangerous to young children, the elderly, and those in poor physical condition. When there
is a severe reaction to the bite, the site can erupt into a "volcano lesion" (a hole in the flesh due to damaged, gangrenous
tissue). The open wound may range from the size of an adult's thumbnail to the span of a hand. The dead tissue gradually sloughs
away, exposing underlying tissues. The sunken, ulcerating sore may heal slowly up to 6 to 8 weeks. Full recovery may take
several months and scarring may remain.
It is difficult for a physician to accurately diagnose a "brown recluse bite" based simply on wound characteristics. It
is absolutely necessary to have the spider for a positive identification. Necrotic wounds can result from a variety of agents
such as bacteria (Staphylococcus, "flesh-eating" Streptococcus, etc.), viruses, fungi, and arthropods (non-recluse spiders,
centipedes, mites, ticks, wasps, bedbugs, kissing bugs, biting flies, etc.). Necrotic conditions also can be caused by vascular
and lymphatic disorders, drug reactions, underlying diseases states, and a variety of other agents.
If bitten, remain calm, and immediately seek medical attention (contact your physician, hospital and/or poison control
center). Apply an ice pack directly to the bite area to relieve swelling and pain. Collect the spider (even a mangled specimen
has diagnostic value), if possible, for positive identification by a spider expert. A plastic bag, small jar, or pill vial
is useful and no preservative is necessary, but rubbing alcohol helps to preserve the spider.
An effective commercial antivenin is not available. The surgical removal of tissue was once standard procedure, but now
this is thought to slow down wound healing. Some physicians administer high doses of cortisone-type hormones to combat hemolysis
and other systemic complications. Treatment with oral dapsone (an antibiotic used mainly for leprosy) has been suggested to
reduce the degree of tissue damage. However, an effective therapy has not yet been found in controlled studies.
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