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How to Identify Black Widow and Brown Recluse Spiders

brown recluse and black widow spiders

Spiders are an essential part of our ecosystem, often aiding in controlling populations of other pests. There are about 3,000 species of spiders in North America but only two of these spiders are considered dangerous to people, the widow spiders and the recluse spiders. The most famous and dangerous being the black widow and brown recluse. Proper identification is crucial in determining whether or not the spider you encounter is a serious threat, or just an annoyance. Here's a detailed guide to help you differentiate between these two venomous spiders and other harmless species.

Black Widow Spider

When identifying the black widow spider, several key characteristics stand out. Firstly, in terms of appearance, they are typically about 1.5 inches in diameter when considering their leg span. They sport a glossy black color, and their most distinguishing feature is the red hourglass shape found on the underside of their abdomen. Additionally, some may have a series of red spots on the top of their abdomen. In terms of habitat, these spiders have a preference for dark, secluded areas. They are frequently discovered in woodpiles, under rocks, inside sheds, and other places that remain largely undisturbed. Behaviorally, black widows are primarily solitary creatures, with a penchant for nocturnal activity.

Brown Recluse Spider

The brown recluse spider has several distinctive features. In terms of appearance, they generally measure between 0.25 to 0.75 inches, excluding their leg span. Their coloration ranges from light to dark brown, often presenting a tanned look. A standout characteristic of the brown recluse is the dark, violin-shaped marking on its back, with the neck of the violin pointing toward the spider's abdomen. These spiders are drawn to dark, warm, and dry locations. This means they're frequently found in basements, closets, attics, and hiding under furniture. They are not naturally aggressive; however, if provoked or feeling threatened, they might bite. Despite their ominous reputation, they generally prefer to keep their distance from humans.

Safety Precautions

If you suspect you have come into contact with either of these spiders:

  1. Avoid Provocation: Do not try to handle or provoke them. Both species are more likely to bite if they feel trapped or threatened.

  2. Seek Medical Attention: If bitten, it's essential to seek medical attention immediately, especially for those who are very young, elderly, or have compromised immune systems.

  3. Capture Safely: If possible and safe to do so, try to capture the spider (without touching it) for identification. This can assist medical professionals in ensuring they provide the correct treatment.

How To Avoid Spider Infestations

To prevent spider infestations, seal cracks in your home's exterior, reduce clutter in basements and attics, and adjust outdoor lighting to deter insect attraction. Trim vegetation away from your house and routinely remove webs. Using natural repellents like peppermint oil can also help deter spiders. If issues persist, consider consulting a professional pest control service like Ohio Pest Control. We are here to help with you spider control issues, or any other pest infestations.


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