Recluse Spiders in Arizona

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Chances are you’ve heard some horror stories about recluse spiders, particularly the brown recluse spider. People typically think that brown recluse bites can lead to terrible infection and disfigurement, and that they are a common and dangerous pest in the United States.

While recluse spiders (which belong to the genus Loxosceles) are widespread across the country, there are only 11 native species, and only two are likely to be encountered in Arizona – the Arizona recluse and the desert recluse. We do not have established colonies of brown recluse spiders in Arizona, and they are not native to our environment, according to the Arizona Cooperative Extension.

While the chance of encountering true brown recluse spiders in Arizona is rare, you may see Arizona recluse or desert recluse spiders in or near your home. We wanted to give you the tools you need to identify them, keep them out of your home, and prevent recluse spider bites.

Identification

Recluse spiders are often referred to as “fiddleback” or “violin” spiders because they have a violin shape on their cephalothorax. However, the desert recluse is nearly always a uniform brown color, and the violin marking can be difficult to see. Striped wolf spiders and other spiders with dark markings are often misidentified as recluse spiders.

Full-grown recluse spiders can be up to 1” in diameter, including their leg span. One feature that sets recluse spiders apart from other spiders is that they have six rather than eight pairs of eyes.

Recluse webs are irregular, mostly flat, and sticky. They are easy to overlook and are not often seen by humans.

The best way to identify a recluse spider is to ask a professional. We would be happy to take a  look at a specimen you’ve caught, or photos you’ve taken, to help you identify them.

Habitat

True brown recluse spiders usually live near humans in urban areas, and depend on man-made structures for shelter. Desert recluse and Arizona recluse spiders are typically less reliant on humans, and are most often found living well away from them. They prefer dry, dark places, and can be found in dead cacti, wood piles, cinder block wall crevices, storage areas, attics and piles of debris that go undisturbed.

They spend their days sitting on their webs, and go on foraging missions well away from their webs at night. Recluse infestations are rare in Arizona, and when they do occur, there usually aren’t as many gathered in one place as in brown recluse infestations.

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Prevention

Since recluse spiders take shelter in piles of debris and clothes, storage areas and wood piles, it is important to keep those areas of your home clean and tidy. Recluse spiders can hitchhike into your home on firewood or other items you might bring in from the desert.

To prevent recluse spider infestations, keep wood debris stacked well away from your home. Keep firewood stacked off the ground, and don’t store it indoors. Pick clothing up and don’t leave it in piles on the floor. If you store wearable items like boots or gloves, keep them in airtight storage containers, or in plastic bags that are sealed.

Recluse Spider Bites

Recluse bites initially produce a red, swollen area that may develop into a blister. If they go untreated, recluse bites can develop into open, weeping sores. If you think you have been bitten by a recluse spider, seek treatment immediately because individual reactions to their bites can vary.

Recluse spider bites, while they can be painful, are rarely fatal. Other infections and skin conditions are often misdiagnosed as recluse spider bites. Unless you see characteristic puncture marks on your skin, or witness the spider biting you, you may be reacting to something else. However, if you think you have been bitten by a recluse spider, seek treatment immediately because individual reactions to their bites can vary.

To prevent recluse spider bites, always wear cloves when cleaning out little-used storage areas or attics, and when handling yard waste and wood debris. If you are picking up clothing items off the floor, shake them you before putting them on. Always check stored clothing items and shoes before wearing them.

If you suspect a recluse spider infestation in your home, be sure to give us a call. We will implement targeted treatments that will disrupt spider nesting areas and prevent them from returning to your house. We will also inspect around your home to find and knock down active spider webs. This is not only a benefit aesthetically, but also aids in the control of all types of spiders.

Photo credit: Tony P Iwane via photopin cc

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