If you’ve spotted a brown spider in or around your home, you’re likely wondering if it’s a species that should cause concern. When it comes to brown spiders, the two that most frequently come to mind are the brown recluse and the wolf spider, which often get confused for one another. Luckily for us, there are several major distinctive traits for telling them apart.
While wolf spiders are found worldwide, brown recluse spiders are mainly located in the southeastern states from Texas to Georgia, and yes all the way up in Northwest Arkansas. Distinguishing between them is crucial, as the bite of a brown recluse is venomous.
The main differentiating factors between brown recluses and wolf spiders are their size, appearance, and behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at their differing characteristics.
Brown Recluse vs. Wolf Spider: Size
The best way to determine which spider you’re dealing with is to look at its size. The size of the wolf spider can be a little scary. At first glance, many confuse it with the tarantula! Perhaps that is because the body of a wolf spider can grow anywhere from one to one and a half inches long, and its legs can span up to three inches in length.
On the other hand, a brown recluse with legs extended is usually no larger than the size of a US quarter. If the spider you’ve spotted is bigger than an inch, it’s not a brown recluse.
Brown Recluse vs. Wolf Spider: Appearance
Both spiders have discerning characteristics regarding their appearance, including coloring, eyes, legs, hair, and markings.
- While these two spiders are technically “brown spiders,” they have different colorings. The wolf spider is often a dark brown and can also bear black, gray, and yellow markings, often with striped legs or a stripe running down their backs. As for the brown recluse, they are pretty plain throughout- either a brown or tan color.
- Like most spiders, wolf spiders have eight eyes, but theirs have a specific pattern. Their eyes are arranged in three rows- two in the top row, two in the middle, and four on the bottom. The brown recluse differs from the vast majority of spiders when it comes to their eyes – they only have six. They occur in three pairs of two, almost forming the shape of a triangle on the spider’s head.
- All spiders have eight legs; however, their shape and characteristics vary between species. Wolf spiders have thick legs, often with stripes and spines (thick hairs) to help catch prey. By contrast, the brown recluse’s legs are solid (the same color as their bodies), slender, and smooth. The scientific name for the brown recluse is Loxosceles reclusa. “Loxosceles” means “slanted legs.” If you see a recluse at rest, you’ll notice that its body sits low and its legs angle up to a point, creating a slanted leg shape.
- These spiders are quite different when it comes to this feature. Similar again to the tarantula, the wolf spider is hairy and will appear fuzzy or furry. The brown recluse spider’s body parts are smooth all over. (It could also be a little fuzzy on its abdomen, but this is by far a defining trait).
- We’ve discussed the wolf spiders’ darker coloring and stripes. When it comes to the brown recluse, it has a distinguishing marking of a dark brown violin shape on its back. Because of this, brown recluses have also been referred to as “fiddle-back” spiders. (Please bear in mind that numerous spiders can have this marking, so consider all the traits we’ve shared with you today when attempting to identify a brown recluse.)
Brown Recluse vs. Wolf Spider: Habits
Spiders can exhibit different habits depending upon their species. Here, we investigate behaviors when it comes to their webs, movements, and behaviors.
- The brown recluse is quite literally a recluse – which can make finding their webs a bit tricky. Since they are always looking for a dark, dry place to retreat into, chances are you might find a brown recluse web in the tiny nooks and crannies in your attic, basement, closet, or storage areas. On the flip side, wolf spiders don’t make webs, so, unfortunately, you won’t see any signs of a wolf spider in your house until you see one!
- Wolf and brown recluse spiders are similar in that they are not social creatures and will avoid contact with humans and other living beings. Since the brown recluse likes to hide in dark places, they may retreat to the inside of a box or shoe. This is when a human might face getting bitten should the spider feel provoked. When it comes to catching prey, the brown recluse will wait for insects to become caught in their web, whereas the wolf spider (like the wolf itself) will hunt and attack their prey. Similarly, should either species feel threatened, they will defend themselves.
- Both species of spider move pretty quickly- another reason they inspire fear when we see them indoors! However, the real question many find themselves asking is, “Do brown recluse spiders jump?” Luckily, neither of these spiders are known to jump at humans- but they DO jump. The wolf spider will pounce on its prey, while the brown recluse may jump in a horizontal trajectory if something touches it.
Are Brown Recluse Spiders Dangerous?
The short answer is, they can be. There has been a lot of hype over the concern that brown recluse spiders are poisonous. To correct this common misconception, brown recluse bites are venomous, not poisonous. If something is poisonous, it would be a toxin you absorbed or ingested, whereas if it’s venomous, it’s venom that’s been injected.
While brown recluse venom is potent and necrotic (causing damage to living tissue), a bite from a brown recluse is a rare thing (and a life-threatening bite- even more rare). The brown recluse is shy and will not actively seek out a human to bite. Often, a recluse bite will cause no damage at all.
If a recluse has bitten you, the area will be red, swollen and tender, but should clear up in about three weeks. However, there are certain cases where the bite can cause severe tissue damage, and medical treatment is necessary. In extreme cases, you will notice the lesion from the bite grow in size, and you may experience dizziness, nausea, chills, fever, or vomiting. If you believe you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to avoid any complications.
How Do I Get Rid of Brown Recluse Spiders?
While we’ve determined there are substantial differences between the wolf spider and the brown recluse, Aspect Pest Control can help you when it comes to these spiders on your property. Should you need help with identification or an infestation taken care of, contact Aspect Pest Control today at (479) 319-0212. Let us solve your pest problems so you can relax and enjoy your home.