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Is that a brown recluse spider?

Posted On: 09/01/2014

Spiders are one of the most resilient and adaptable group of species on earth. And they are everywhere in Atlanta. Although sharing your home with spiders may not actually be such a bad thing – they are generally harmless to humans and kill off many home-invading pests such as centipedes, cockroaches, and ants – some are a nuisance, and even others can be deadly. Although rare, a bite from the much-feared brown recluse spider can cause severe pain and inject flesh-rotting venom into their victims.

Where are these spiders found?

Not to be confused with small, brown spiders that run around pretty much everywhere on Earth, brown recluse spiders only live in a few states of the southern and central United States. In Georgia, the brown recluse lives throughout northwest Georgia, including parts of metro Atlanta, which is on the eastern fringe of the spiders range. Individual houses can be infested but the spiders are not as common as they are in the heart of their range (i.e., the Missouri/Arkansas region).

Brown recluses are nocturnal creatures and do not like being out in the open. They prefer to hide in dry, warm, and dark areas – hence their name. Outdoors, the brown recluse prefers to live under rocks, woodpiles, and tree bark. Inside structures, they hide in closets, purses, shoes, attics, crawlspaces, wall voids, and in the clutter of houses and old barns.

Defining Characteristics

  • The body of the brown recluse spider is relatively small, about the size of a dime (1/2 inch in length). When its legs are extended, the brown recluse is slightly larger, about the size of a quarter.
  • Although the color can vary slightly, the brown recluse spider is generally light to medium and golden brown. Regardless, the body color will always be uniform in color, never multiple colors at once.
  • The legs of the brown recluse spider are uniform, always the same color and shape, and never have any stripes on them.
  • The most commonly described identifier of a brown recluse is a violin-shaped marking on the spiders upper back, with the violins neck pointing toward the spiders butt.
  • The brown recluse is among a few spiders species that have six distinct eyes (arranged in three pairs of two) instead of eight like other types of spiders.

Brown Recluse Spider Bites

Most spiders are harmless, rarely bite people, and generally do so only if threatened. Often people think they have spider bites when the irritation is actually from another cause such as a skin condition, staph infection, an insect sting, or other skin issue that mimics the symptoms of a spider bite. But the brown recluse spider is one of the few dangerous exceptions. Although rare, the main concern of a brown recluse spider bite is the venom, which can cause the tissue around the bite area to die. If left untreated the bite could develop into a life threatening illness. Affected tissue becomes gangrenous, turns black, and eventually sloughs off, leaving a depression in the skin. Healing is a slow process and leaves a scar. Brown recluse bites are most dangerous to young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.


The severity of a brown recluse spider bite may vary from none to very severe; the amount of damage depends on the amount of venom injected. The bite is often not immediately painful. Within several hours, most brown recluse bites result in a small reaction including pain, redness, itching, and swelling followed by a small blister-like sore that grows in size. The damaged area may be the size of a dime or as large as a quarter (nearly an inch in diameter).

Brown recluse spider bites can cause tissue damage and some individuals can experience much more serious symptoms. In sensitive individuals, there may be a systemic body reaction. Some of the symptoms can be flu-like and may include fever, chills, bloody urine, jaundice, joint pain, vomiting, nausea, rash, and in extremely rare cases, convulsions, and death.


The course of treatment depends on how severe the bite happens to be. Although the majority of spider bites look like little pimples or mosquito bites and usually heal by themselves.

  • Clean the bite area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold ice pack to the bite area to slow absorption of the venom.
  • Elevate and immobilize the bitten extremity.
  • If at all possible to do so safely, capture the spider so it can be properly identified.
  • Seek emergency medical treatment if the victim is a young child, if any signs of an allergic reaction occur, if the bite area becomes infected, or if the victim develops a rash or severe illness. In reality, only 10% of brown recluse spider bites require medical attention.


  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt, hat, gloves, and boots whenever handling stored boxes, firewood, lumber, and rocks. Do not stick your hands in places you cannot see.
  • Inspect and shake out clothing and shoes before getting dressed.
  • One of the best ways to remove spiders from your home is to starve them out. Spiders will not survive if there are not enough insects getting inside your home for the spiders to eat. We can help you professionally seal up all cracks and crevices through which these insects are entering.

Not up to sharing your home with spiders?

For people who are afraid of spiders, want to sleep comfortably without worrying about a brown recluse spider infestation, or who do not want to get close to a potentially venomous creature like the brown recluse, it is best to call your Truly Nolen Atlanta pest control expert. We can keep your home or business safe from all types of spiders and other pests. Call us today for a free inspection.

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