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Close up shot of a brown recluse spider on a tiled tan floor

How To Get Rid of Brown Recluse Spiders

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Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 04/19/2024

While many species actually help out in your yard by eating nuisance insects like mosquitoes and are completely harmless to humans, this is not the case for the brown recluse spider. This somewhat common spider has a venomous bite that can cause serious health problems.

Although brown recluses aren’t aggressive, and they’re not as deadly as many people believe, we highly recommend going straight to a professional pest control company to handle a brown recluse spider problem because of the health risks. A professional exterminator will know how to get rid of these pests safely and quickly. To help your search, we’ll provide our recommendations for a few top pest control companies.

How To Identify Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown recluse spiders are, as the name suggests, brown in color. Adult spiders with their legs extended are about the size of a quarter. They’re also sometimes called fiddleback spiders because of a dark brown, violin-shaped mark on their backs, with the widest part of the “violin” sitting right behind the spider’s head. They are not to be confused with brown widows, which are similarly colored but smaller and have the same large abdomen with red markings (similar to black widows).

Although most brown recluses live outdoors under rocks, logs, or woodpiles, they can establish indoor homes as well. They spin webs only to hold their egg sacs, not to catch their prey, so a lack of cobwebs is not evidence that they’re absent.

Found throughout the south central and lower Midwest, these spiders very rarely form infestations outside of this region. Brown recluse spiders typically stay hidden during the day unless driven out by hunger or overcrowding. If you see one in your home during the day, you may already have a substantial infestation.

Health Risks of Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown recluses are venomous, but they aren’t aggressive. When they bite humans, it’s usually because they’ve accidentally become trapped against human skin—inside clothing, shoes, or bedsheets. If you spot one but haven’t been bitten, there’s no need to panic.

If you know you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse, apply ice, elevate the bite, and seek medical attention immediately. If it’s possible to do so without endangering yourself, try to bring the spider with you for identification, even if it’s crushed or dead.

A brown recluse bite is usually painless when it happens, so you may not realize you’ve been bitten for several hours. Although a bite will usually heal on its own, there is the possibility that the wound can become necrotic, destroying tissue around the bite.

Some people will have immediate severe reactions like fever, dizziness, and vomiting, though this is rare. Although a bite can be serious, death by a brown recluse is even rarer. In fact, according to news reports, it is far less likely than death by a lightning strike.

How To Prevent Brown Recluse Spiders From Entering Your Home

The most important thing you can do to prevent these venomous spiders from establishing a foothold in your home is to use caulk to seal cracks and crevices through which brown recluses can enter. Pay special attention to areas around windows, doors, vents, and utility pipes, as these are the most likely places for cracks to develop.

It’s also a good idea to move woodpiles and yard debris away from the side of your home, as this spider prefers to make its home in such shelters. Similarly, cut tall grass and clear any climbing ivy off the exterior walls of your house. Since brown recluses use other insects as a food source, keeping up with general pest control in and around your house will also help keep them away.

How To Get Rid of a Brown Recluse Infestation

Again, we strongly recommend professional pest control, but if you have reason to believe the infestation is small and you want to try a DIY approach, here are some steps you can take. Remember that before starting any kind of inspection or treatment, put on long sleeves, gardening gloves, and boots to protect vulnerable skin. Brown recluse fangs are small and can’t pierce clothing.

Begin with the prevention methods listed above, then dust and vacuum your home thoroughly. You can lay down sticky traps in areas where brown recluses generally hide, including attics, basements, closets, and garages. There are any number of “natural” products that claim to repel spiders with essential oils or strong scents. However, most of these claims aren’t backed up by evidence—and remember that repelling spiders doesn’t kill them.
You can make a solution out of apple cider vinegar and water and spray it on any brown recluses you see. However, there’s no consensus on whether this works, and vinegar is usually suggested as a cure-all in terms of home remedies for all cleaning and pest problems. Diatomaceous earth sprinkled on a surface will kill brown recluses, but it works slowly, and the spiders have to come into direct contact to be affected.
The most reliable way to kill brown recluse spiders is with an insecticide. If there’s an infestation, some brown recluses will always be able to avoid sticky spider traps and diatomaceous earth, particularly egg-laying females. For your safety and that of your family, the benefits of using synthetic pesticides outweighs the risk as long as you use them as directed by the manufacturer.
Fortunately, many broad-spectrum pesticides like cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, deltamethrin, and lambda cyhalothrin are also effective against brown recluse spiders. These are available in spray, liquid, and dust forms. All of these are best used in targeted areas—that is, sprayed or blown into cracks and crevices where brown recluses are likely to be hiding. Whole-house foggers are rarely effective.
Follow the directions on the insecticide packaging and keep it away from children and pets. Once again, it’s a good idea to start with prevention methods to seal your home and glue traps to determine where to start treatment.

When To Call in the Pros

With brown recluses, it’s safest to head straight to the professionals from the start. And if you’ve tried to treat the problem yourself to no avail, it’s definitely time to consult a pest control company. Although serious complications from brown recluse bites happen only about 10% of the time and are rarely fatal, these complications can be very painful and cause deep scarring. It’s entirely worth the money to have experts handle brown recluse infestations.

Our Top Picks for Professional Pest Control

We recommend Terminix, a nationwide provider that’s been in business for nearly a century. This company offers annual pest control plans as well as targeted brown recluse treatments, and its technicians will point out and repair weak spots in your home where pests may be getting in.

Orkin is another excellent choice for pest control that’s available in more than 400 locations nationwide. Well-trained technicians will follow up with you to make sure your brown recluse problem has been fully eliminated.

FAQ About Brown Recluse Spiders

What’s the difference between brown recluse and wolf spiders?

Wolf spiders are fairly common in many parts of the U.S., and since they’re brown in color, they can be mistaken for brown recluses. Luckily, wolf spiders are far less dangerous, and their rare bites only sting or itch if you have an allergy.

The easiest way to tell the difference between wolf spiders and brown recluses is coloring. Brown recluses are solid brown save for the violin-shaped mark, but wolf spiders have stripes or mottling of black and gray. Their bodies are also covered with fine hairs, whereas brown recluses are smooth.

What does a brown recluse spider bite look like?

It’s difficult even for experts to tell what kind of spider bit you just by looking at the bite. Brown recluse bites begin as many insect bites do, as a red bump that may be itchy and painful for several hours afterward.

However, complications arise when the bite develops an open sore or ulcer. Although this reaction is unlikely, seek medical attention as soon as possible if you have an insect bite that becomes ulcerated.

Where do brown recluses live?

In the United States, brown recluses are found in a region that stretches from Nebraska to Ohio and Texas to the Florida panhandle.

Our Rating Methodology

We back up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plans and services, reputation and customer responses, customer service offerings, workmanship guarantees, financing, and availability to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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