Brown Recluse Spider Bite: Pictures, Symptoms, and Treatment

Written by Crystal
Published: July 31, 2023
© Nick626/
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There are quadrillions of spiders worldwide, so when dealing with a bite, there are many culprits to consider. Some are harmless, such as the cellar spider, while others, like the brown recluse, have potent venom that can cause skin rot. What type of spider bite are you dealing with? It’s time to find out. Read on to learn all about the brown recluse spider bite, its symptoms, and the best treatment options.

Key Points

  • It’s a good idea to call a doctor when you suspect a bite
  • The doctor may suggest icing and elevating the bite area
  • These spiders have made their homes in 16 U.S. states, occasionally venturing beyond.
  • Brown recluse spiders have light brown bodies, long legs, and violin-shaped markings.
  • A bite from a brown recluse presents as two small puncture holes surrounded by red, inflamed skin.
  • Symptoms of a bite can develop slowly.
  • Medical attention should be sought.
  • Severe bite symptoms mimic flu-like conditions and necessitate immediate medical care.
  • Recovery from a bite can take weeks.

What to Do if a Brown Recluse Bites You

A Brown Recluse spider bite shot closeup thats red in the center, and a red rash on the out side of it. Shot in Kansas.
If you get bit by a brown recluse, elevating the wound and applying ice to the area can help.

©Robert D Brozek/

What should you do if a brown recluse bites you? It’s best to call a doctor and seek their opinion when in doubt. Without treatment, brown recluse bites can lead to necrotic lesions, causing the destruction of tissue and leaving long deep scars.

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Call a doctor, even if the bite doesn’t appear severe. When you call, the doctor will ask about the spider’s symptoms and appearance. In the meantime, at-home treatments involve elevating the wound and applying ice to the area can help.

When to Go to the Emergency Room for a Spider Bite

Often, spider bites don’t require a doctor’s visit. But when the symptoms are severe, you may find yourself heading to the hospital. Severe symptoms, such as ulcers, fever, chills, nausea, joint pain, and weakness, always require immediate medical attention. Left untreated, brown recluse bites can result in extensive scarring.

How Serious Is a Brown Recluse Spider Bite?

In most cases, a brown recluse bite only ends up causing damage to the local soft tissues at the bite site. That being said, it’s not something to be taken lightly. There have been a few rare cases, especially in children, where the bites have unfortunately led to fatalities. It really puts the importance of prevention into perspective.

What Does a Brown Recluse Bite Look Like?

The brown recluse bite appears as two small puncture holes. At first, the center of the bite may have a pale color, surrounded by a red and inflamed outer ring. The first few hours after a brown recluse bite, the affected area may be red, itchy, inflamed, and painful. Over the course of several days, an ulcer can appear, break down, and eventually form a deep wound. When the wound heals, it leaves a thick, black scab. Without treatment, brown recluse bites can lead to necrotic lesions, causing the destruction of tissue and leaving long deep scars.

Diagnosing a brown recluse spider bite can be challenging unless you saw the spider while it was biting you. Plus, symptoms can take hours to show up. One brown recluse spider bite case study shows doctors were at a loss when their patient, a 59-year-old woman, needed treatment for a red, swollen bug bite. Over the course of a few days, a blister formed, ruptured, and turned into a black eschar. The patient also experienced systemic symptoms such as fever, diaphoresis, nausea, and diarrhea.

Thankfully, experts were eventually able to identify the bite as coming from a brown recluse. While there isn’t a specific test to identify a brown recluse spider bite, healthcare providers may test for skin infections or other conditions based on the wound’s appearance. In this case, carefully applied wound care coupled with intravenous antibiotics helped improve the patient’s condition within 3 days.

Stages of a Brown Recluse Bite

It’s crucial to seek immediate medical assistance if bitten, especially if severe symptoms are experienced. Here are some of the most common brown recluse spider bite symptoms:

  • Discomfort or inflammation
  • Ulcer
  • Fever
  • Queasiness
  • Achy joints
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures (extremely uncommon)

It’s common for there to be pain and itching within two to eight hours after being bit. Within three to eight hours of the bite, the affected area becomes sensitive and turns red. The bite site may feel a burning sensation. The color of the bite site undergoes changes, potentially resembling a bullseye pattern or developing a bruised, bluish hue.

3 to 5 Days

If the spider injects a small amount of venom, immediate discomfort should subside. However, if the venom spreads beyond the bite area, discomfort may persist for several days, accompanied by the development of an ulcer at the bite site.

7 to 14 Days

In severe cases, the skin surrounding the ulcer may break down, resulting in a wound that could take several months to heal completely.

3 to 4 Weeks

For the majority of cases, healing occurs within three weeks. A thick, black scab typically forms, covering the wound.

How to Identify a Brown Recluse

Adult female Loxosceles reclusa. (Brown recluse)
Brown recluses are small brown spiders with six eyes and a violin-shaped marking on their back.

©Keith Davis/

How can a brown recluse be identified? Adult brown recluse spiders have a light brown body that’s roughly 3/8ths of an inch. They also have long legs and a distinctive violin-shaped marking on the back. The neck of the violin points backward towards the abdomen, and the marking sits right behind their six eyes. Unlike other spiders with eight eyes, these spiders have six eyes, with a space separating each pair.

Key Features

Here are the key features of a brown recluse spider:

  • No more than ½ inch long
  • Dark violin pattern
  • Uniformly brown colored legs and abdomen
  • Six eyes
  • Long legs
  • No spines on the legs, just hairs

Sometimes common house spiders are mistaken for a brown recluse. But closer inspection will usually show these look-a-likes have 8 eyes or spiny legs, two things the brown recluse doesn’t have. If a spider has thick leg spines, it’s not a recluse. Brown recluse spiders have long legs with fine hairs but no spines. Finally, if there are multiple colors on the legs, or if the legs are a darker brown than the body, it’s not a recluse. Brown recluses have a uniformly brown colored body without any stripes or bands.

Preventing Spider Bites

worker installing mosquito net wire mesh in plastic window frame
Keep spiders and other bugs out by ensuring all windows doors have screens.


Avoid spider bites by keeping spiders where they belong—outside. You can start by ensuring all windows and doors have screens. Next, make sure you’re not doing anything to invite spiders to your house in the first place.

What attracts brown recluse spiders? Spider food sources. If your home has a lot of small bugs, it’s like an open invitation for the brown recluse. They find these little creatures irresistible and will likely make themselves right home. The more tiny insects in your home, the more appealing it becomes to a brown recluse spider.

It might be time to start a pest control plan. Many homeowners have quite a few pests lurking around their homes without even realizing it. Sneaky overwintering insects find their way inside through tiny cracks and then hide in all sorts of places like wall voids, crawl spaces, basements, and attics. And these areas are like paradise for spiders, especially brown recluse spiders. They love hanging out there because they find potential prey like cockroaches, beetles, silverfish, and crickets. By implementing an ongoing pest control plan, you can significantly reduce the number of those pesky little bugs and make your home much less appealing to those brown recluse spiders. It’s all about making your space less enticing for bugs to hang around. If there’s an infestation of brown recluse spiders, you’ll likely need an integrated pest management (IPM) plan that utilizes multiple control methods.

Where Brown Recluse Spiders Like to Live

Where do brown recluse spiders like to live? These elusive eight-legged creatures are fond of dark, quiet corners. If you’ve got a brown recluse in your home, chances are you’ll find it tucked away under a porch or hiding in a forgotten corner of your closet. Other places brown recluse spiders may live include cardboard boxes, tarps, garbage can lids, drawers, and garden gloves. Outdoors you can find them in wood piles, bark crevices, underneath rocks, logs, and dead cacti. Whenever you’re working outside, stay safe by wearing long-sleeved shirts, hats, and gloves. It’s also smart to store gardening clothes in sealed bags.

What states have brown recluse spiders? These spiders tend to prefer a westward direction. The majority of brown recluse spiders are found in the Western Hemisphere, with a concentration in Mexico and Central America. Brown recluse spiders are fully established in 16 states in the United States: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. These sneaky spiders have also made their way into other territories. Sometimes they wind up in a new state after hitchhiking in a moving box. There have also been documented occurrences of brown recluse spiders in Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wyoming.

More About Brown Recluse

Brown recluse spiders use their venom to subdue prey like silverfish and moths.


The brown recluse, part of the Sicariidae family, is a recluse spider whose venom can cause necrosis. Bites can cause varying degrees of harm, from minor skin irritation to severe ulcerated wounds, and often require medical attention.

There are 11 species of recluse spiders in the United States. Only four of them are dangerous to humans, and the brown recluse is one of them. But it’s not like they’re trying to find humans to bite. Instead, these spiders are always on the lookout for small insects or other spiders to eat. They use their venom to subdue and digest prey. Unlike their web-spinning cousins, brown recluses are active nocturnal hunters. They love chasing down their prey in the dark. Brown recluses prefer to feed on already dead insects, but they eat live prey too.

It can be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to spot a brown spider who’s hiding out in your house. Not only do they hunt at night, but these amazing arachnids can also go for months without a single bite to eat, remaining hidden in your home the entire time. And while brown recluses aren’t aggressive spiders, like many creatures, they’ll defend themselves if they feel cornered or threatened.

Final Thoughts

The brown recluse spider isn’t out to get us. These critters are more interested in hunting down small insects or other spiders using their venom. Want to avoid run-ins with these spiders? Try some simple solutions like fitting screens on windows and doors, clearing out spots where they might hide, and wearing gloves when working outside.

Finally, it’s a good idea to know how to spot a brown recluse in case you think you’ve been bitten. You can identify a brown recluse spider by its light brown body, long legs, and a distinct violin-shaped marking. A bite may start looking like two tiny puncture holes surrounded by a red and inflamed ring, which can later become an ulcer and then break down to form a deep wound.

The brown recluse spider can be a real threat, but we can do a lot to stay safe. Knowing where they hang out, how to spot them, and understanding the signs of a bite can really help in keeping things as safe as possible.

The Featured Image

Brown recluse spider
The brown recluse spider is often identified by the violin-shaped marking on its body.
© Nick626/

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About the Author

Crystal is always looking to learn more, and share her finds with you along the way. It's amazing how you can spend your entire life living with plants and animals, but still know so little about them! Let's explore our world together as Crystal covers topics about creatures, places, and experiences.

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