Things you can do to reduce the chances of being bitten by brown recluses
Updated: October 2019
This almost-universally applies to those people who live within the areas of the map shown at the website.
If you do not live within these areas on the map, you are very unlikely to have recluse spiders unless you can prove it by providing a specimen to a QUALIFIED expert. (Be aware that due to the infamy of the brown recluse and its subsequent hyperbole, harmless spiders have been misidentified as recluses by physicians, pest control personnel and even entomologists.)
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 significant reduction in the numbers of spiders and take steps to reduce the chances of being bitten.
- Remove bed skirts 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.
- Use sticky traps to trap spiders. Every one you catch is one less recluse that can bite you. If you have curious young children or pets, this increases the difficulty of deployment.
- 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. Hardware stores now sell massive zipper-locking bags (like 10 gallon size). This is especially important for things that you stick your hands and feet into like: roller skates, baseball gloves, gardening gloves, boots, rain gear. Many people get bitten by putting on clothes that have been lying around for several weeks or months and press the spider against their skin. Tape up the edges of cardboard boxes so there is no way a spider can squeeze inside. Store boxes 8 inches off the ground and 8 inches away from walls.
- 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 into it during the night.
- 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. The tumbling of spiders through a wrinkled hose of a shop vacuum is often sufficient to kill them. 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:
Despite all the overly excessive precautions you may want to make, be aware that the 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 to hundreds 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.
- 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.