Spider making web

Chances are you have heard the stories of the dangerous brown recluse spider. A bite from these spiders can cause serious skin damage, nausea, and muscle pain. Numerous reports of the seeing the dangerous spider surface every year throughout Southern California, and those with spider bites are often diagnosed with a brown recluse spider bite. But do brown recluse spiders live in California? Are they the cause of these painful bites, or is it something else?

What is the brown recluse?

The brown recluse, Loxosceles reclusa, is often referred to as the violin spider or fiddleback, referring to the violin-shaped marking on the top surface of its head. In addition, the brown recluse, and other recluse spiders, have another distinct identifying feature. While most spiders have eight eyes, often in two rows, the recluse has only six eyes, arranged in three distinct pairs. These spiders are known for their reclusive behavior and do everything to avoid their detection by predators. They are nocturnal in nature and do most of their hunting after the sun goes down. They possess a necrotic venom that can cause significant damage to the skin and muscle when injected through a bite.

Do brown recluse spiders live in California?

Despite the rumors, the brown recluse does not reside in California. However, other recluse spiders treat our area home. The most common recluse found in California is the desert recluse (Loxosceles deserta). While it is most common in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, where the population is sparse, these can be found in Southern California.

Brown recluse vs. desert recluse

Unfortunately, the desert recluse shares many distinctive features with the brown recluse. This is ultimately what leads to reports of brown recluse and bites in the area.

Physical appearance

The physical appearance of both the brown recluse and the desert recluse is very similar, with the only main difference being that the markings on a brown recluse are often darker. Both are light tan, dark brown, or a yellowish-brown in color with a dark brown violin-shaped marking on the top of their cephalothorax, or head. They both feature only six eyes in three equal pairs, and, unfortunately, both are venomous.

Habitat

Recluse spiders are reclusive, doing everything they can to hide from predators. They use silk, not to spin a web, but rather to build a blanket-type retreat that they use to hide from predators. They also use their silk to build a trigger system that alerts them to the presence of possible prey approaching. They are nocturnal in nature and may actively leave their retreats at night to hunt. Outside, these spiders are often found in cracks or crevices under rocks or between the bark of dead trees. In a populated environment, these spiders often seek shelter under garbage cans, between plywood or firewood piles, and in undisturbed areas of storage. If they make it into your home, they can often seek shelter in dark spaces, such as in your closets or in your shoes.

Toxicity

The brown and desert recluse produce a necrotizing venom, known as sphingomyelinase D, which they inject into the skin through a bite. When this does of venom comes into contact with human tissue, it can cause the deterioration of skin and surrounding tissue, essentially eating away your flesh. This is known as loxoscelism. The good news is these spiders are not aggressive, so the risk of actually being bitten is slim. However, if you do identify recluse spiders in your area, residential pest control and spider management can help reduce your risk of being bitten.

Other spiders commonly confused with brown recluse

While the desert recluse is often mistaken for the brown recluse, there are many other spiders in California that people often confuse with these recluse spiders.

Six-eyed spiders

While most spiders have eight eyes, the recluse family of spiders only have six. They are, however, not the only six-eyed spiders. Spitting spiders and the woodlouse spider also have six eyes arranged in a similar pattern as the recluse. Spitting spiders, however, have spots or lines on their bodies while the woodlouse spider has no markings at all.

Ubiquitous brown spiders

Recluse spiders have given just about every other brown spider in California a bad reputation, with many people assuming any light brown spider they find is a recluse. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of brown spiders that call our area home. These include crevice spiders, grass spiders, orb weavers, ground spiders, and many others. In fact, both male western black widows and false black widows are often mistaken for recluse spiders. The distinguishing factor between all of these spiders and the recluse is in the eyes. Only the recluse has six eyes, with the others all having eight.

Spiders with similar dark markings

If a spider is tan or light brown and has any type of dark marking on their head, people often make the assumption that they are a brown or desert recluse. However, that is not the case. Many harmless spiders throughout California fit into this category. These can include cellar spiders, pirate spiders, and the most commonly found spider in our area, the Titiotus habitus, known simply as the Titiosis. While these spiders may look similar, they all have eight eyes and are not venomous.

Your home is not meant for spiders

While we don’t have the brown recluse in California, the desert recluse can pose a threat. It is known for being elusive, but the human environment offers many new hiding places. When they find entrance into your home, they can often make way into dark areas, such as your closest or into your shoes. This is often where bites occur. The good news is you don’t have to share your home or business with these dangerous pests.

At Insight Pest Management, we understand that any spider may make your skin crawl, but the presence of a recluse can pose a danger to yourself and your family. To learn more about spider control and how we can help manage your spider concerns, schedule an evaluation today.

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