What to do if you think you have Brown Recluse

Brown Recluse Spiders

In Northern Alabama we have no shortage of spiders, fortunately many spiders are beneficial and pose little to no threat to our health and safety. While most spiders don’t pose any serious threat to humans, in our area we have a few that give us reason for concern. For many people, first on their list of dangerous spiders is the Brown Recluse.

Due in large part to the severity of their venom, brown recluse spiders get a bad rap. If it weren’t for their capacity to cause so much damage with a single bite, they would be a decent spider to have around. Brown Recluse like to hide, rarely coming out while we are up and active. They like dark, undisturbed places where they have the potential to grab a passing roach or silverfish to feed on. Because of this they are more likely to be found in wall voids, attics, crawlspaces, false ceilings, wood piles, and other areas. Most Brown Recluse bites that do happen come from spiders that are moving around, and try to take harbourage in something (like a shoe, or garden glove, or our beds) that we use. Because these spiders like to hide and like undisturbed areas there are only a few reasons why they leave their nests and move around.

The Reasons why a Brown Recluse comes into the open.

Look at the size of this Brown Recluse we found in Athens, AL!

First, Male Brown Recluse will leave the safety and security of their hiding places to go in hunt of a female Brown Recluse to mate with. As you can see from the picture of the glue trap (the best monitoring tool for confirming a brown recluse infestation) there is a large Brown Recluse Spiders on it. The large spiders are most likely males looking for a mate.

The second reason that Brown Recluse run around in the open, is when they are looking for a new place to nest. This happens if food becomes scarce where they were at before, or if the area becomes too overcrowded with other brown recluse spiders. (Brown Recluse will eat other types of spiders, but aren’t aggressive towards other Brown Recluse) This is more common in homes or businesses with a severe infestation than in home with a light infestation, and it can cause spiders of all sizes to move about.

The third reason that Brown Recluse leave their nests happens shortly after an egg sac hatches. For a short time after being born, young Brown Recluse will stay in the general vicinity of their mothers. As time passes more and more of these young spiders head out in search of a new home of their own. These will generally be small to medium spiders.

The best way to identify a Brown Recluse Infestation.

Brown Recluse are….reclusive! They don’t like being seen, and they don’t like being caught in the open. Because of this most of their movements are done at night and in the dark. During the daylight hours where they are more likely to be seen, Brown Recluse will generally find a dark corner, crack, or crevice where they can hide. Because of their habit of hiding, often in very hard to find places, it is generally best to try to catch/identify brown recluse as they wander around, rather than to try to seek out their elusive hiding places.

The best tool for identifying brown recluse is to catch them in a glue board, or sticky trap. Proper Identification is the first step in controlling the problem. There are a few reasons why identifying pests is important. First, it allows us to know the type or species of spiders being seen. (Many people confuse house spiders, wolf spiders, jumping spiders, yellow sac spiders, and others for brown recluse) Each spider will have different behaviours, and thus will need different methods to most effectively control them. Second, it gives us a pretty good idea of how large the infestation is. When treating a small infestation vs a large one we need to design a different service plan to ensure control.

Without some sort of monitoring, it is almost impossible to tell how bad of a problem there is. When we start treating a home for brown recluse, we continue to monitor – even for several months after the infestation is under control.

How bad can a Brown Recluse infestation get?

Brown Recluse are different from many other spiders in that they are not very aggressive towards other brown recluse spiders. While it isn’t normal, in some cases thousands of spiders have been removed from homes and barns or garages that have severe infestations.

A few examples: a family in Lenexa, Kansas caught over 2,000 brown recluse in their home over a period of 6 months. Another case is where arachnologists (spider guru’s) collected 1,150 brown recluse spiders in three consecutive nights!

If left unchecked, a brown recluse infestation can grow into a very large population.

How dangerous are Brown Recluse?

While Brown Recluse venom is highly toxic, bites are relatively rare. These spiders are very non-aggressive, and usually bite people only in defense, only when they feel like they are about to be killed. Most bites occur when they are trapped between a person, and whatever object they were nesting in. Often those objects can include shoes, gloves, clothes, and even our beds.

If bitten, it may not even hurt enough to be noticed right away. The first sign is often a small blister that forms and begins to itch. Depending on a few factors, including individual susceptibility, immune system, simultaneous bacterial infection, etc. this is where the skin can begin to have serious problems that would need medical attention. These more serious complications include open skin lesions, dead tissue, some blood issues, pain, and of course the possibility of further infection, and in extreme cases death.

It’s best to avoid being bitten, so if you think you may have a possible Brown Recluse infestation, take the following steps:

Steps to take if you have a Brown Recluse Infestation:

First- you need to start having high quality, regular, pest control treatments done on your home. You should choose a professional that has experience in eliminating brown recluse infestations. This is also important in preventing brown recluse, because it will keep potential food sources (other insects) out of and away from your home or business.

Second- Keep both the inside, and outside of your home clutter free. As much as possible keep toys and other items in sealable containers, and keep things picked up. This will both allow your service provider to treat more effectively, and it will reduce harbourage for both brown recluse and the insects they feed on.

Third- Brown Recluse love to nest in, and around items with rough services, i.e. Cardboard boxes and similar materials are a huge potential nesting area. Try to eliminate any extra boxes or paper piles from around your home and attic. If you have to store items in your attic, put them in sealable plastic tubs.

Fourth- Remove bed skirts, and make sure all beds are up off the ground on a quality bed frame. Smooth metal bed frames are best as they will discourage the spiders from climbing them. Also having the bed far enough away from the wall so it isn’t touching will help.

Last- Make sure to double-check anything you’re about to put on before you do so. Check shoes, and shake them out. Check gloves, if you have left clothes on the floor and are going to put them back on double-check them before you do. This is especially important for items in garages and sheds (waders, work boots or work gloves, camping equipment, etc), and is good practice for anyone in Northern Alabama regardless of whether or not you think you may have an infestation.

Taking these steps can really help reduce your chances of being bitten, and can help keep your home and family safe. If you have any questions that you would like answered, or want a certain topic discussed in a future blog post, leave a comment and we’ll be sure to take respond!

– Jared

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