How to Identify Brown Recluse Spiders and Avoid Getting Bitten

You might see one of two poisonous spiders native to Kansas more often in your living space as it warms up this summer — and it might be the most common spider in your home.

“In my opinion, after 40 years of pest control and house pest control, I think the brown recluse spider is probably our most common house spider,” said Jeff Whitworth, entomologist and extension specialist in entomology. at Kansas State University.

The brown recluse spider, whose bite can cause tissue loss, scarring and infection in humans if left untreated, will be in its most active phase by October. Brown recluse activity typically increases in the summer when the spiders move into people’s living spaces to escape the heat of the outdoors and attics, said Gerry Marsh, associate board-certified entomologist and president of Patton Termite and Pest. Check.

“As it gets warmer, we might get 10 or 20 calls a day ‘for brown recluses,'” Marsh said.

Here’s a guide on how to stay safe, recognize the spider, and avoid being bitten this summer and beyond.


As their name suggests, brown recluse spiders are reclusive – Whitworth describes them as shy – and often go unnoticed as they spend their time in places where there is not much human activity, such as attics, closets and basements, according to Kansas State University Research and Extension.

Whitworth said spiders spend their time in dark, warm, moist places where they can find other insects to prey on. Brown recluse spiders hunt for food at night, so during the day they often hide in shoes and under clothing left on the ground and crawl at night to search for food, Whitworth said.

“We tell everyone, one of the great ways to avoid brown recluse spiders is to make sure you don’t leave any of your clothes on the floor, or if you pick up your shoes every morning, shake them out good because that’s where they hide,” Whitworth said.


There are several distinct characteristics of the brown recluse spider, including the following, according to K-State Research and Extension:

  • General brown color

  • Slender legs with a defined structure and pattern

  • A violin-shaped marking on the back

  • Three pairs of two eyes each (most spiders have eight eyes instead of six)

Whitworth said the brown recluse usually has a dark violin shape on the front part of its body, and the back part is usually a bit darker. They are not hairy spiders, and the largest they can get is about the size of a quarter, he said.

The brown recluse spider does not seek humans to bite. Rather, it typically only bites when it feels threatened, Whitworth said. Whitworth, who was bitten by the brown recluse, said the spider bit him when he tried to punch one by the chin.

“I think a lot of times when they feel threatened, their natural reaction is to stand up and bite, or if you crush them, you can often sink the fang into your skin,” Whitworth said. “You put your shoe on, or your shirt or your pants or something and there’s one in there, or you kick it and you actually sink one or both fangs into your skin.”


If you see a brown recluse spider, the best thing to do is leave it alone, Whitworth said. However, if you see a lot of brown recluse spiders and think it’s a persistent problem, he recommends placing spider traps around your area.

“Remember that a brown recluse spider is probably more afraid of you than you are,” Whitworth said. “They’ll leave you alone if you leave them alone or contact pest control.”


Several precautions can be taken to protect yourself from being bitten by a brown recluse, in addition to shaking out your clothes and shoes before putting them on.

Craig Betts, pest control technician and vice president of Betts Pest Control, said he finds brown recluse spiders particularly fond of cardboard boxes and other storage areas. To keep spiders out of storage, Betts said he recommends keeping storage items in sealed containers and plastic bins. Stored clothes that aren’t sealed are more likely to contain brown recluses, Betts said.

“You pull out a blanket and you pull out a winter coat that’s hanging in the basement,” Betts said. “How likely is it to have a brown recluse in these items? That’s damn high, if the place isn’t treated regularly. There are literally thousands and thousands of people who are unaware of this and are putting themselves at risk by moving winter clothes and such into the basement.

Marsh said decluttering the house, using a shoe rack that doesn’t touch the floor, and not using bed skirts are all ways to avoid encountering and being bitten by a brown recluse.

Additionally, Marsh said it’s important to take care of your home’s exterior to avoid a brown recluse infestation. Ways to achieve this include not having any bushes or shrubs against your house foundation or ivy growing on the side of your house, and making sure you have good drainage away from the house.

“By attracting other insects to the house, you will also attract spiders to feed on them,” Marsh said. “It’s kind of a food chain that you’re trying to break there as well.”

Emily Davis, director of educational programs at the Great Plains Nature Center, said she recommends cleaning and collecting in your area to reduce the number of places spiders can hide. Additionally, she said another method that has worked for her is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the floor, which can be purchased at home improvement stores.

“It’s a very safe powder that’s a chemical-free way to treat spiders,” Davis said.

Pest control services offer other options for getting rid of brown recluse spiders.

Marsh said seeing a brown recluse daily or several times a week could be an indication of a brown recluse infestation, which should be treated by a pest control service.

“They’re reclusive,” Marsh said. “They really don’t like being out in the middle of the day when people can see them. It’s a bit unusual.

Betts said that because brown recluse spiders have non-absorbent legs that pass through many different chemicals without poisoning themselves, he recommends using a “microcap” chemical, a contact capsule in microscopic form applied with a wearer. of water.

When it dries, the microcapsule leaves behind microscopic particles that stick to the hairs of the legs of brown recluse spiders once they step on it. When the spiders ingest the particles while cleaning themselves, it kills them. The microcap differs from cheaper chemicals that can be purchased at the store and is more effective, Betts said.

He said his company reapplies the chemical once every 60 days, at an average cost of around $70.

“In number of doctor visits and work stoppages, what’s the cost of that versus paying a professional to come and spray your house once every two months?” Betts said. “$60-70 seems to me [awfully] cheap to keep spiders away from your home that could cause you to shed a good chunk of your skin.


People react differently to a bite from a brown recluse, and according to a fact sheet from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the severity of a bite can vary.

Within hours, the sting usually turns red, and by age 24 to 36, people often experience restlessness, fever, chills, nausea, weakness and joint pain, according to OSHA. The tissues and surrounding area at the bite site die and eventually fall off.

OSHA recommends cleaning the bite area with soap and water and applying ice to the bite area to “slow venom absorption.” Additionally, OSHA says to “elevate and immobilize the bitten extremity,” capture the spider for identification if possible, and seek medical attention.

Nicole Klevanskaya is an intern reporter at the Wichita Eagle. She is currently studying journalism and Russian at the University of Kansas and was the 2019 Kansas Scholastic Press Association Student Journalist of the Year and National Finalist. Originally from Pittsburg, Kansas, she covered student politics for KU’s student newspaper, the University Daily Kansan. Her article on the Kansas Foster Care System that she wrote for her high school newspaper, the Booster Redux, was named a 2019 “Feature Story of the Year” by the National Scholastic Press Association. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys playing the piano, hiking and spending time with her family.

Comments are closed.