Misconception Monday: Brown Recluse are Everywhere!

As a spider scholar (of sorts), I tend to get a lot of questions from just about everyone regarding the more infamous spider species. One of these species, the brown recluse, is well-known for having venom that is somewhat poisonous to humans, and so it has become somewhat of a curiosity to most individuals in the United States. Typically, people want to know how deadly this species is, where this species likes to live (i.e. inside or outside), and how to ID an individual spider as a brown recluse. Although there’s quite a bit of misinformation regarding these questions, the question I want to answer today is “What is the geographic range of the brown recluse (Loxoceles reclusa)?”

The main reason this question interests me is that, throughout North America, there is an intense, widespread fear of the brown recluse. Yet, if you look at the actual geographic distribution of spiders in the Loxoceles genus (see the map below), it is clear that the brown recluse species really only lives in a small part of the United States.

Loxoceles map courtesy of: http://spiders.ucr.edu/myth.html
Loxoceles map courtesy of UCR Spider Myths

Still, ignorance of the geographic range of this spider has two ramifications: 1) many spiders being misidentified and killed due to fear that they may be Loxoceles, and 2) people paying substantial amounts of money to have exterminators get rid of harmless spiders (this could be due to active scamming by exterminators, but I would guess that, more often than not, exterminators may not know how to identify brown recluse any better than their customers).

So, please use this map as your first means of identifying whether or not a spider in your house/work/garden/etc. is a recluse or not. If you do live in an area with recluse, or are just curious about this fascinating genus, please read more about them at the sites listed below. There is quite a bit of false information about the brown recluse on the internet, so it’s best to stick to websites and articles that are clearly written by people that research these critters!

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7468.html

http://spiders.ucr.edu/brs.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071166/

http://www.burkemuseum.org/spidermyth/myths/fiddleback.html

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One thought on “Misconception Monday: Brown Recluse are Everywhere!

  1. We did have a brown recluse in Alaska that bit my niece a few years ago. However, it had hitchhiked on a pallet that we brought to our house that originally came from Louisiana. That happens from time to time up here. And as our winters in Alaska are becoming more mild, we are seeing more and more insects/spiders/etc.

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