The Brown Recluse Spider, Loxoxceles reclusa; Just the name of it makes people shudder. The mere thought of being bitten by one can make your heart race, and for good reason. This spider’s venom has the potential for a type of severe tissue damage that is progressive and slow to heal.
According to sources at the Centers for Disease Control there are roughly 10,000 spider bites reported each year and approximately 2,000 of those are from Brown Recluse spiders. There are some problems with these statistics.
- The Brown Recluse Spider only occurs in two regions of the United States, the Central (or Deep) South, the Midwest and a few other, small localized areas. The species simply does not exist in most of the country. For California residents, the diagnosis of a recluse bite in our state has a very high probability of being a misdiagnosis, since the spider does not naturally occur here. The only exception might be one where a recluse was contained in a shipment coming from its native range. This would be a rare occurrence. Note: There are some brown, fiddle-back spiders that are native to California which mimic its appearance. They are capable of producing symptoms similar to the Brown Recluse. These are the Desert Recluse, Loxosceles deserta and the South American (dot), Loxosceles laeta. Both of these occur in some of the counties located in southern third of our state.
- The species is called the Brown Recluse for a reason. It is very shy, preferring to hide in dark, undisturbed areas of homes and buildings or outdoors under rocks or other debris.
- They prefer to escape when threatened and only bite if handled, pinched or squished.
- Most bites from this spider heal quickly. A small percentage of bites results in massive tissue necrosis.
- There are bacteria that can cause similar necrotic damage if they enter even a slight wound. Spider bites cannot be diagnosed by simply looking at the damage. For a positive diagnosis of a brown recluse bite the spider must be captured and positively identified as a Brown Recluse, by a trained professional.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a Brown Recluse bite, be sure to get a second opinion and have a pest professional inspect the location where you think you encountered the spider. Perhaps he or she can collect and identify it.