UCR Spiders Site

How to Avoid Bites

Things you can do to reduce the chances of being bitten by a brown recluse spider

This applies only to those people who live within the areas of the map elsewhere on this site.

If you do not live within these areas on the map, you do not have recluse spiders (unless you can prove it by sending me a specimen).

Within this zone, brown recluse spiders are quite common. But brown recluse spider bites are not common. So, if you do nothing , you will probably not be bitten. Humans of the midwestern U.S. are living with millions of brown recluses everyday and bites are a rare occurrence. I have heard from several people who collect dozens of recluses in their homes every year and nobody in that household (including their little babies) has ever shown evidence of a bite. This does not mean that you should ignore them. They are potentially dangerous, however, you are probably more at risk from injury every time you get behind the wheel of a car.

However, many people have asked how to reduce the chance of being bitten further, and here is how:

  • Be aware that it is almost impossible to eliminate recluse spiders from a building once they get established. The best you can hope for is a signficant reduction in the numbers of spiders and take steps to reduce the chances of being bitten.
  • Use sticky traps to trap spiders. Every one you catch is one less recluse that can bite you.
  • Remove bedskirts from beds. Move the bed away from the wall. Remove everything from under the bed so that the only way the spiders can get up on the bed is to crawl up one of the four legs.
  • Many bites have occurred when people put on clothes that had been lying around for several weeks or months, and pressed the spider against their skin. I'm sure your kids will hate me for this one but don't throw clothes on the floor and then wear them the next day. If you do, shake them out or squish them into a ball before putting on the t-shirt or whatever. Bang out shoes first to see if a spider crawled in during the night.
  • When you store things in the garage, basement or attic, put them in plastic bags that you can close with a plastic zipper lock or twist-tie. This is especially important for things that you stick your hands and feet into like: roller skates, baseball gloves, gardening gloves, boots, raingear. Tape up the edges of cardboard boxes so there are no way a spider can squeeze inside.
  • Be careful when you move things out of storage areas, in particular, cardboard boxes. Recluses like to hang out in the space under folded cardboard flaps. Be careful when you carry the boxes as you might place your fingers on a recluse when you pick up the box or press a recluse against your body when you carry it. Remove any spiders inside boxes using a vacuum cleaner and dispose of the bag. Reseal all open edges of cardboard boxes with tape before restoring them.
  • Clean up clutter and junk that is lying around. Recluses love clutter and prefer to live under and between items, such as plywood, tarps and cardboard on the ground
  • Do not stack wood against the house. Recluses like woodpiles and if they take up residence inside wood stacked next to a house, there is more chance that they will wander into the home. Move the woodpile as far from the house as possible, stack it off the ground and cover it with a tarp. These steps make the firewood less attractive to insects and the spiders that feed upon them. Also, when you pick up wood, wear gloves. Of course, check the gloves first for spiders, or stomp on the gloves first to squash a spider (as disgusting as it might seem to put on a glove with a squished spider in the finger, squished spiders don't bite.)

Other things you should know about brown recluses:

  • Most households with brown recluses never experience a bite
  • 90% of all brown recluse bites heal without severe scarring.
  • Many brown recluse bites cause just a little red mark that heals without event.

Despite all the hoopla surrounding the brown recluse, there is still not one PROVEN death due to brown recluse bite. (No, wait, don't write me about someone who died and 'the doctor said' it from brown recluse! This information originates from two separate publications in medical journals written by two recluse venom experts who are medical doctors, who have been studying the medical implications of recluse bites for decades in Missouri and Tennessee where brown recluses occur frequently, and who know much more about the effects of recluse venom than your local doctor. If you want to argue this point with somebody, go argue with them, not me. And unless you have a confirmed spider identification associated with your "alleged" bite (i.e., removed from the skin of the victim after the bite), you don't have a PROVEN envenomation.)

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