While the brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is native to the southern and midwestern regions of the US, their ability to inflict medically hazardous, and potentially lethal bites were not widely known until the medical community began to take notice of several fatalities that occurred in response to brown recluse envenomations during the 1950s. Since then, medical professionals often couple the brown recluse with the black widow as the only two medically significant spider species in the US.
Three black widow spider species and two additional widow spider species have been documented as inhabiting the US, with the southern black widow (Latrodectus mactans) being the most commonly encountered black widow species in central Texas. In addition to widow spiders, a total of 13 recluse spider species have been documented as inhabiting the US, two of which are invasive. Of these 13 recluse spider species, the brown recluse is the most widely distributed species in the US, and while several studies have shown that all recluse spider species in the US are equally venomous, the brown recluse is the only one that prefers to live indoors where they derive benefits from human settings.
Every year in October or November, brown recluse spiders respond to the progressively shorter days by retreating into cracks, crevices and other protected harborages in order to overwinter, and overwintering behavior is exhibited even by brown recluse specimens that are already living within heated homes and buildings. Brown recluse spider species are usually categorized as house spiders due to the fact that they establish permanent reproductive populations within homes and buildings.
These venomous spiders are attracted to indoor environments where abundant clutter provides numerous harborages where brown recluse spiders can hide during the day. For example, these spiders are frequently found beneath attic insulation, folded flaps of cardboard boxes, behind pictures on walls, behind bookcases, or between pages of newspapers. Brown recluse spiders also spend their days cramped within cracks and crevices in walls and flooring, and they are especially well known for congregating within inaccessible spaces such as wall voids and ceiling voids where their population can grow rapidly.
Have you ever encountered a brown recluse spider within your home?