Brown Recluse Spiders: Where They Lurk and What You Should Do if You get Bit

    March 14, 2012
    Heather Campobello
    Comments are off for this post.

The brown recluse spider is even more dangerous than the Black Widow because of the way its venom affects humans. Their venomous bites cause necrosis, meaning that the tissue surrounding the attack site dies and leaves its victims with nasty scars.

Bites typically take months to heal and can be excruciating.

Typical side effects that attack victims experience are dizziness, muscle soreness and fever. Very few people perish as a result of being bitten, those who do tend to be children and elderly individuals. Regardless, there is a real risk of death and proper follow up with a physician is crucial.


The following YouTube video covers Dave Losher’s frightful encounter with a brown recluse spider in his Illinois home in 2002. Dale almost lost his leg after his physicians failed to identify the spider that bit him; this caused the venom to spread and kill more tissue. The bite required doctors to remove a substantial amount of tissue; the wound was so big that you could fit a baseball in it:

If you have been bit and have already killed the spider, it is important to safely and securely bag the dead spider so that it can be identified by your physician or health care provider. As we reported in a previous article, the brown recluse has a marking on its back that looks like a fiddle:


By receiving immediate medical attention victims can reduce scarring and expedite the healing process; physicians will typically inject victims with steroids to accelerate the healing process.

Another risks that BR victims face is organ damage.

These spiders are most commonly found in dark, dank places where they can hide from humans; this is why they are named recluses.

Dr. Mike Leahy searches for a brown recluse spider in the following YouTube video:

Most encounters occur inside or around cardboard boxes, in attic or basement rafters, or in shelves or drawers where they can hide.

The best way to avoid these dangerous animals and protect yourself is to scan drawers and boxes before you reach into them. You should also avoid spiders that are putting on confrontational displays (lifting their front legs or showing their fangs). Furthermore, you should NEVER destroy their webs as this could provoke them to bite.

  • donald m smith

    my ex girlfriend and i had a warmblood horse named lola lisa. beautiful trotter from the tracks in montacello, ny. she was bitten by a brown recluse spider. it took alot of vet visit and 3 times a day scrubbing, in which my girlfriend was able to do. she healed nicely, but she went down from a stroke shortly after being healed from the spider bite. so i firmliy belive that the venom from the spider caused the stroke from attacking other organs. we didn’t know, neither did the vet. well i hope we can spread the word. thanks and God bless

    • floyd starr

      if you get a low voltage stun gun. and zap over bite mark a couple times. the electric shock destroys the venom. so there isnt lasting holes or whatever. this can be use for bee stings spider bites and snake bites. hope this helps u.

  • http://www.webpronews.com Gregory

    Recluses need to be exterminated at first sight with all precautions taken.I have two friends that had a stroke after the bite and one lost a leg and the other an arm with terrible scars. Be careful and don’t expose too much skin when cleaning out attics,basements, or any dark place. It could cost you in some cases your life or loss of a Body limb.

  • Judy

    These are nasty little creatures. I have been bitten twice (on my lower leg and of my forearm) but thank the Lord I did not loose anything. Just a little scarring is all. But I had a black labradore that was bitten and it left a place in her side that you could almost stick your fist into. It took almost two years before the area healed enough for the hair to grow back on her, then is was only patchy. Use extreme caution when working around areas these spiders can hide in.

  • Jeannine

    Those spiders ARE dangerous! I was bitten on the side of my neck a few yrs ago. I had severe muscle problems, couldn’t move my head, it was tilted sideways. I was very dehydrated & sick. Plus scared! We were on an Army post @ the time, and I was given immediate medical care. I did get an IV of a few diff.bags of medication, stayed overnight. My hsbnd found the spider he hit on my neck. Later we were told it was a Brown Recluse, and I lucked out, because it was a baby!! I still have neck problems to this day!! JM

  • http://yahoo warren

    I was stung in payson arizona i had a very hard time with. my bite was on top of my foot where it is mostly bone, the doctor said i was lucky because it will eat the flesh around the bite, but with it so close to the bone it couldn’t go deep,it took about 2 months before it was all healed. i have a scar but you cant see it becaue of my shoe.

  • http://yahoo Gerry Burgin

    brown recluse bite on my left shoulder was taken care of by second Dr. I think the first Dr. was a little be nieve about our local bugs.

    But in anycase it took about two months of meds that my Dr. gave me and it left a scar on my left shoulder. By the time it started to heal it was as big as a quarter. Make very sure that the person you go to knows about bug bites

  • Aaron

    Most people don’t know that they are wrongfully diagnosed with a brown recluse bite. It is actually very rare to be bitten by one and if you are it is very rare that you know you were. They have a bite that can only occur if they are crushed between your skin and clothes or if you roll over one while sleeping against your bare skin. Don’t just take the word of some article and let it scare you, do some actual reading about the subject from experts.

    • Aaron

      “Rick Vetter, the nation’s foremost expert on the brown recluse spider — loxosceles reclusa — said such media reports use “scare tactics,” and 90 percent of the time a bite causes nothing more than a red mark on the skin.
      “These are distorted reports … hyperbolic media crap,” said Vetter, a research associate in the department of entomology at the University of California-Riverside.
      A Kansas home, for instance, was infested with 2,055 brown recluse spiders for a period of 17 years and “not one” in the family of four was bitten, according to one of his studies, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology…

      “My crusade is to stop stupidity in the medical community,” Vetter said.
      When doctors blame a skin lesion on the brown recluse, they might overlook other more serious conditions such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), diabetes or even lymphoma.
      In a 2005 article he co-wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, Vetter cited 40 other conditions that can cause necrosis often misdiagnosed as a spider bite.”

      • c.y. yanez

        Rick Vetter, “expert” on bites has never, obviously, been bitten by any spider.I live in Utah. Three years ago while cleaning out boxes in my garage during the summer I was biten by something. Not wearing gloves was my mistake. That night I noticed a large painful spot on my wrist about the size of a dime. It was already an open wound. I have been biten twice by black widows in Calif so I watched it. Not as painful as widows but open sore got bigger fast. It was weekend (of course)so I went to 24 hr clinic. I was seen by a young doctor who had also been bitten by a recluse and immediately recognized my plight. He perscribed antibiotic and I will be forever grateful to that young doctor. If I have to go back to his emergency clinic again, I hope he is still there. I thank him in my prayers every nite.

      • linda newman

        very helpful im very scared of the little vermits have heard only horrid stories thank you


    I was told that if a spider bites you once it leaves a phamone and other spiders will bite you also. Is this true?

  • bonna

    Years ago my mother got bit by a spider and did nothing for about three days. She is one that does not go to the doctor. She was in pain and we made her go. Come to find out it was a Recluse spider. she was so lucky because she did not have any damage to her skin at all. She had put ICE on the bite constantly. Maybe that had something to do with it. thank God. If you get bit…put ice on it and get to the Doctor ASAP.

  • John D.

    My wife was bit on the stomach by a Recluse in Ohio two years ago and the bite had a ring around it that continued to enlarge, The bit area turned black as the tissue died. We took her to a locl hospital and a resident told us he thought it was shingles but to see our family physycian the following Monday it it didn,t improve. Monday we webt to our family doctor who is young and very knowlegable and he took one look at it and told us she had a bad spider bit, probably a brown recluse and drew a ring around the bit area and told us if the ring expanded that point after sh e was on her RX fortwo days he wanted to immediately go to the emergency room art thr hospital. Fortunately the ring stopped expanding but she finally ended up at a wound center at our hospital over several months just to get the open wound of dead flesh to heal up. We gave been told that one hang out for them is your mailbox at your home and also in your lawn so wear some protection.

    • Kelli

      You say they like to hang out in the mailbox!!! I live in california, not too long ago i lift up the mail slot to get my mail and something came flying out and landed behind the book shelf. “what the heck is that?” i went to move the shelf and there it was, this HUGE at least 3in long and 2in wide; and the obvious was this fiddle mark on it’s back. I thought it was weird for a spider that size to be in my mailbox, how did it get in there? My mailbox is located on the front porch wall (only a mail slot)mail drops down the inside of wall to other side mail slot to get my mail.

  • joe scheunemann

    i had a friend get bit on the thigh he got put in the hospital for a week sleeps on his side poison leached across to other leg and back to the hospital! After that i got bit on the hand saw want it was and cut my hand open with a razor knife and let it bleed the company sent me to the dr he said why did you do that i said because i saw what it was he looked at it and said yes it is a brown recluse i never took a med cut healed up and i had a dull pain in my arm for about a month. Spray spray spray!

  • Wendy b

    Before they were heard of around Pa, about 22 yrs ago, a friend was bitten on the lower leg. Thank god her Dr. was from a southwestern state, so was familiar with the brown recluse. She said she probably was bitten when she opened a cardboard box with a gift in it. Her Grandma had sent it from calif. I was almost bitten by one in my bathroom. A book swap site had sent me a book from someone in Fla.& the plastic bag it was in, inside the pkg, had one in it, but he is long gone now! Took a nice trip down the sink drain!

  • Tammy

    I have read that an Activated Charcoal Poultice does wonder’s for drawing out poison from any type of insect bite, snake bite, and spider bites, as well as being good for burns. Here is a video I found on how to make it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgO7Ou1lCtE&feature=related
    You will need to keep the following ingredients in your house in case of emergency’s. Bentonite Clay and Activated Charcoal Poultice(best to have already in powder form that you can buy online or at a Natural food store.) Here is also a very informative article on the benefits of Activated Charcoal. http://www.morethanalive.com/Activated-Charcoal-Powder

  • Tammy

    This Activated Charcoal Poultice includes a few herbal ingredients that not only draws out the poison but also helps the healing of the wound. http://www.brown-recluse.com/ingredients.html

    • Tammy

      Plus I use Activated Charcoal every night to whiten my teeth, lol. Not only does it strenthen the enamel but it makes them soooo white. : )

  • Mary Davis

    OMG! This thing is so ugly. I was bitten in bed but did not know if it was a Brown Recluse. Probably not but there was blood on my leg and there is still a dime size red spot after two years! I find all these posts very informative and appreciate learning more about these varmints.

  • Debbie Robinson

    I was bitten by a brown recluse spider when I was 18years old. I had just moved to Florida. I got up one morning and noticed a place on the inside of my right upper arm that looked like a cigarette burn. I didn’t pay to much attention to it until it started to swell and after 2 weeks it was the size of an egg and very infected looking. I went to the doctor and from there had surgery to remove and clean out the wound. It was so infected that part of the muscle was eaten away, so it was never able to be stitched up. I am not 59 years old and I still have the scar. I have had a healthy respect for this spider and hope never to encounter another one.

  • http://Bart-A-Tack Bart

    A buddy of mine got bit by a br in middle school. He did not go to the doctor right away thinking it was just a bug bite. A couple days went by and the spot where he got bit was getting worse. So, he went to the doctors two days later. The Doctor told him it looked like a br spider bite and he was lucky that it was not that bad and it was probably a baby br. So, after returning home the went into his room in the basement and started looking for a web or nest. When they turned his mattress over they found a nest of baby br’s. Needless to say HE GOT LUCKY!!!

  • mary

    My guyu was working in a trailer crawl space and the BR hitched a ride in his pants. When he got in his truck he felt like something
    bit him on the behind. He didn’t think about it and continued to work. When he got home he told me about it and that it was hurting pretty bad. When I checked it was the size of a quarter and starting to necrose. I got a scapel and scraped the dead skin and affected tissue then put antibiotic cream on it and put a breathable bandage on it. It took about two weeks to completely heal with no scar.It was
    slightly discolored for another week. Lucky place to be bitten!

  • mary

    Point being , don’t wait for it to get huge! Nip it in the bud!

  • Stephanie Wolflady.

    I was bit 2 days before Christmas 2010. I live in the woods outside Albuquerque, NM. I was moving 10 sheets of plywood. I was well covered…BUT forgot to tuck my shirt into my jeans. Had on 2 pairs of gloves, 3 layers of shirts and fleece& Even tho I “politely” killed 100’s of Black Widows and 5-10 brown recluses,–every time I gently laid down the sheets of wood before I moved them,—the buggar got me anyway. Must have crawled up my pant leg and under my shirt.
    I was bit on the left flak by my kidney area. In 24 hours , I went to the Fire Station near me, they circled the area and it grew 1″ outside in less than one hour. I drove myself to the ER immediately and they rushed me in right away. I am in EXCELLENT HEALTH, excellent shape and take herbs and vit.’s I did NOT WAIT. As soon as I started shaking like “it was cold”, I knew I was bit.///It grew slowly in 24 hours. And IT WAS VERY PAINFUL.1st the size of a quarter, then , of course, bigger. Maxed out @ 8″ across.
    The DOC @ UNM hospital called me the Christmas Miracle.
    It has been over a year and I barely have a scar because I take herbs and knew how to clean it properly…..
    Originally, they got out 5cc of gunk. I went back 3 times. 4cc, 2 cc. The pain was unbearable. I can not take pain pills..I react. So, I had to grin and bear it.
    Because of the way we ship everything in this country, they hitch a rid ON ANYTHING. BE CAREFUL…. you never know.
    I took precautions and STILL got bit.

  • michele

    I was sleeping when i was bit by one of these on my cheek. I slept through it biting me, but when i woke up i had a small red lump on my cheekbone. I just thought it was any other spider bite, ceaned it and went about my day. By afternoon it was very sore so looking in the mirror i started to clean it again, gently wiping it with an alcohol soaked cottonball, as i did the top layers of skin wiped off too. After just a couple wipes i had a hole the size of a dime that i could stick my pinky in up to the first knuckle. That was seven years ago and i still have a scar that looks like a cigarette burn. A very scary experience, i hadn’t ever even seen anything but regular house spiders in that house.

  • http://yahoo.com DJ

    Well, now I’m a little more than spooked by all of this. But it is worth knowing since I have a lot of spiders around my home. Been wanting to fumigate for many months but no money to do it. I was thinking foggers would probably help. Anybody out there agree? Disagree??

    • http://yahoo robin

      foggers won’t work….i was bitten by one in 1996 and thought about using a fogger too…found out that spiders can hold their breath!….

    • http://YahooNews Randall

      Yes D.J.foggers do work & quite well , Can be a lot of work to arrange everything so the fume can reach all areas. One can not fog enough area though . Those critters can crawl through any openings.

  • Dave

    I was spelunking one day when a giant spider leaped out upon me. He hissed and growled and told me I had entered his lair uninvited. He sunk his huge fangs into my abdomen and sucked my innards out. I collapsed and died on the spot.
    Watch out for these dangerous beasts!

  • gary

    use ammonia to neutralize the venom…it has worked for me twice. Look for…”after bite” sticks in stores, they contain ammonia. or just saturate a washcloth and soak the bite for a few minutes …:)

  • http://webpronews Mike McGuire

    The adjunctive therapy for Brown Recluse Spider bites is treatment with Hyperbaric Oxygen.

  • Gary Deschenes

    I was bitten by a Brown Recluse a few years back when I lived in Phoenix. It got my right butt cheek; not sure how it got there but it did. I never knew when the bite actually happened but I do remember the first day I noticed something was wrong. I sat at a picnic table at work during a brake and it felt like I was sitting on a small marble. The following day it felt like a large marble, the third day it was even larger. On the fourth day, the entire right side of my butt was hard as a rock and I was then in excruciating pain. I went to a walk-in-clinic and they sent me directly to the ER. I was in the hospital for 8 days; The doctors told me if I would have waited another day, I could have lost my entire leg at the hip joint. I ended up with the removal of a chunk a bit larger than a baseball from my cheek with no stitches, just a hole filled with gauze. It took months to heal and left a sizable scar. I am so afraid of any kind of spider now.

  • Carolyn Rhode

    The brown recluse venom contains a vasoconstrictor which causes the necrosis. Many years ago I read an article suggesting use of a nitroglycerin patch over the bite as soon as possible if the spider was identified. This has worked wonders to prevent all the problems. Be careful–many patients who have come to me with “spider bites” have actually had staph abscesses!

  • Arthur Losher

    Here is the story: It was a quite morning at 5:00 am on May 6th, 2002 and I was lying in the bed with my wife. I felt a slight tickle on my upper thigh of my left leg under the covers and proceeded to brush it away. As my hand struck the blanket I felt a slight stinging sensation on my leg. Little did I know that moment was going to change my life forever, I lifted the covers to see the outline of a small, brown quarter size spider on my bed. My wife woke up startled and asked me “What is it?” I said, “It looks like a spider. Hold on”. I ran to the bathroom, grabbed some tissue and quickly grabbed the spider and threw it in the toilet. My wife came into the bathroom to look at the spider and all we said at that moment was “Wow, that is a big spider”. I flushed thee toilet with a feeling of personal victory. Almost within the hour the bite area swelled to a quarter size area. That afternoon I went to the doctor and he asked me if it was a brown recluse. I have never seen a brown recluse before but both my wife and me agreed that it quite possibly was after hearing the description of one but I had always thought those spiders were in southern Illinois. The doctor gave me some antibiotics and circled the area with a marker and sent me on my way. Later that evening a white infected area formed in the bite site. I am told this is called the “bulls eye” and is a definite tell tale sign of a brown recluse bite. The area around the bite site turned blue, dark red and had gone outside of the circled area. My wife took me to OSF Emergency room where they rushed me to surgery. I spent eight days with an open cut at the bite area to drain the spiders toxins from it and almost 24 hours a day on IV antibiotics and pain medication. In the end I had a 5 inch in diameter area of dead tissue, a result from the toxins, cut out of my upper leg. My next step in 8 days is skin grafting, which I am told is skin taken from another part of my body and place on the cut away area. But that area will never look the same. I am a resident of Pekin in a suburb type area. Never would I have thought this type of spider was right here in Pekin or central Illinois.