The brown recluse spider is part of the North American spider trio with medically significant venom. Its necrotic venom is just as helpful to medical research as the venom of the Chilean recluse and the well-known black widow.
Despite being equipped with a rather powerful venom, brown recluse spiders are quite small – up to 0.79 inches long. While their bites might require medical attention, they are too small to eat large creatures. But what do they eat? Let’s find out!
What Are Brown Recluse Spiders?
Loxosceles reclusa spiders, better known as brown recluse spiders, are part of the Sicariidae family and possess necrotic venom. Even though their name indicates that the species is brown, specimens of blackish-gray, dark brown, and even whitish colors have been documented.
Brown recluse spiders are often referred to as violin or fiddleback spiders or brown fiddlers. This is due to the distinctive black line markings on their cephalothorax, which resemble a violin.
An interesting and distinctive characteristic of brown recluse spiders is that they have only six eyes, unlike the great majority of spiders with eight eyes.
What Do Brown Recluse Spiders Eat?
Brown recluse spiders eat mainly insects and, in some cases, other spiders (even of their own species), which indicates they’re carnivores. They are partly opportunistic. Namely, while they prefer hunting for live prey, they won’t refuse a dead one, especially if it has been recently killed. As such, brown recluse spiders are both hunters (active ones) and scavengers.
Brown recluse spiders hunt for food during the night. They are known for biting their prey, infecting it with venom, and leaving the area, returning to eat it only after it dies. Among the insects the species eats, we can mention crickets, flies, and moths – generally insects with soft bodies.
The interesting part is that you might not actually get to see a brown recluse spider hunting. This species can go months without hunting and eating something. The longest documented period of a brown recluse spider not touching any food was two years. This happens because the species can stay in one spot for prolonged periods, and if something enters their perimeter, they will eat it. If not, oh well!
A List of Foods Brown Recluse Spiders Eat
Here are some foods that brown recluse spiders eat. Keep in mind that the species may feed on other spiders and other brown recluse spiders as well – namely, they engage in cannibalistic behavior.
- Other spiders, including brown recluse spiders
- Dead insects
- Small, soft-bodied insects generally
What Do Baby Brown Recluse Spiders Eat?
After hatching from their eggs, baby brown recluse spiders will stay close to their mother for a couple of weeks. The mother is also responsible for feeding the youngsters with anything it can catch. However, their main role is to guard the babies against predators.
Once this protective period is over, baby brown recluse spiders begin exploring their surroundings and eventually create their own hunting territory.
What Eats Brown Recluse Spiders?
Like most spider species, the brown recluse spider has natural predators. Among these, we can mention the praying mantis, crickets, and especially blue jays. Their biggest natural predator, however, is the Homo sapiens. Because of their bites, which can become dangerous, people often rely on professional extermination services rather than vinegar sprays, which greatly damage the brown recluse spider population.
What To Do if a Brown Recluse Spider Bites You
The bite of a brown recluse spider will sometimes require medical attention. This means that the species is not deadly. However, you do have to treat the bite spot. Start by cleaning the area with water and soap. Then, to reduce swelling, run cold water or apply ice over the bite spot.
Elevating the bite spot is recommended to increase the chances of not being affected by any other symptoms.
If any of the following symptoms occur, it is highly advised to seek medical attention (in most cases, additional symptoms imply an antibiotic treatment):
- Joint pain
- Feeling of weakness
How To Keep Brown Recluse Spiders Away From Your Household
While brown recluse spiders won’t attack people on purpose (they prefer eating insects, after all), some might want to keep their children or pets extra safe, especially when living in areas with increased levels of vegetation. Vinegar is the best way to kill brown recluse spiders and to ensure they don’t come inside your household – or at least in areas where they can be seen.
Spraying vinegar on furniture and in the corners of a room provides the sprayed area with enough acidity to kill any brown recluse spider on contact.
Where Do Brown Recluse Spiders Live?
Brown recluse spiders are found mainly in the central and southeastern regions of the United States. They may be found elsewhere, but most brown recluse spiders, be they wild or domestic specimens, are found right above the Gulf of Mexico and south of the Great Lakes.
- Wolf Spider vs. Brown Recluse: Five Main Differences Explained
- Brown Recluse in Michigan: Where Have They Been Spotted?
- How Common Are Brown Recluse Spiders in Arizona?
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Nick626/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.
- Cleveland Clinic, Available here: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22946-brown-recluse-spider-bite
- Bioweb, Available here: http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2013/kosch_matt/interactions.htm
- Bioweb, Available here: http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2013/kosch_matt/nutrition.htm