Spiders in Kentucky
To some of us, they are the things nightmares are made of. Some folks freeze in fear at the sight of one. They can make you produce blood-curdling screams and throw shoes at a wall. Spiders. Eight-Legged Freaks. Demons from Hell. Call them what you will, most spiders are harmless to you and your family. But some are not. Of the hundreds of species of spiders that call Kentucky home, none are as infamous (or misidentified) as the Brown Recluse. In my home inspection adventures, I see them way more than you would think, sometimes several times a week. Louisville and the surrounding areas are packed with them.
The Brown Recluse, aka “The Fiddler,” which sounds more like a villain from Batman than a spider in your home, is one of the most dangerous venomous spiders in the United States, and one of two in Kentucky (the Black Widow is the other). Loxosceles reclusa (if you want to geek out on the name) is found in the central Midwest. From Nebraska to Kentucky, from Iowa to Texas, and everywhere in between.
Perhaps I am more aware of these guys than other people, but I find lots of homes every year with Brown Recluses spiders in them during my home inspections in Louisville. A few of these have been serious infestations…I’m talking about hundreds of the creatures found by yours truly in one home, and I’m not really looking that hard for spiders.
How to Identify a Brown Recluse Spider
The reality is, a lot of you who are reading this right now have a Brown Recluse spider or three in your garage, basement, or attic, and don’t even know it. Heck, you’ll likely never see them. They are, after all, a recluse…ba-dum-dum…I’ll see myself out.
But if you would like to be able to spot these dudes, here are the things I look for when I see a spider in a house. I’ve gotten so good at it I can spot one of them from across the room.
- The Brown Recluse Spider is small. Really small. They are usually no bigger than a quarter, including the legs. The picture below was taken in a garage during a home inspection in Louisville, KY. Notice the size of the spider in relation to the head of that framing nail.
- They are…wait for it…Brown in color. Shocking, I know. However, this color spectrum can range from really dark brown to almost a creamy white.
- Most spiders have 8 eyes, but a Brown Recluse Spider only has 6. Legend has it that they lost two of their eyes in a bar fight a long time ago, but I am not able to substantiate this claim. Their eyes are hard to see due to one of two things: (1) The eyes are very small and you need magnification to see them clearly, or (2) it’s hard to count spider eyes while running the opposite direction of the spider.
- And of course, as their nickname “The Fiddler” implies, the simplest way to identify them is to look for a fiddle shaped marking on the cephalothorax (fancy name for their back). The fiddle or violin shape is their exclusive marking. No other spider will have this marking.
Where are Brown Recluse Spiders Hiding?
As the name implies, the Brown Recluse spiders are usually in dark places. They build irregular webs that frequently include a shelter consisting of random threads. During my home inspections, I see them mostly in:
- Woodpiles or stacked lumber in a shed or garage.
- Closets (especially around the ceiling)
- Just about everywhere in a crawlspace.
- Basements–around the rim joists (ceiling) and inside or around sump pumps.
- Attics, especially in insulation.
Brown Recluses are more common than most people think. In fact, one of the largest infestations ever recorded was in Kansas in 2001. Over 2,000 brown recluse spiders were removed from a home where the people lived for years. Not one bite occurred in that house.
Brown Recluse Spider Treatments
It’s important to remember that generally, Brown Recluse Spiders are not aggressive. In fact, they are usually the opposite. However, they will bite you if they are handled or feel threatened. A common cause of bites occurs from the spider becoming trapped in an article of clothing or shoe. They crawl in your old pants hanging in the closet, and when you put them on…you get bit.
Personally I’ve not been bit. But I’ve read many reports where victims state that they never felt the bite happen, but the necrosis that takes place a few days later can be… gross. If you would like to see images of rotting flesh from a Brown Recluse bite, here you go. Click at your own risk: Google Images search of Brown Recluse Bites.
If you think you have been bitten by a Brown Recluse spider, you should try to catch the dude (dead or alive) and seek medical attention as fast as possible. Death from a Brown Recluse bite is extremely rare, but it has happened.
The odds of getting bit are really low if you don’t do stupid things like try and handle a Brown Recluse spider. If you think you may have them in your house you should call a pest control company. This is one of those times you don’t want to get all DIY. Most pro’s will want to set sticky traps in the areas where the spiders are most active. Give it a few days and then check the traps. This can help gauge how bad your problem is. Then you can develop a plan of attack. You can also break out the biological warfare (chemical spray) if needed, but understand that this usually takes multiple treatments and is not a one-time thing.
Though Brown Recluse bites are rare and the potential exists for you to cohabitate peacefully in your house with these bar-fighting arachnids, you don’t want to. If you see them, call a pro.
- Spiders In Kentucky – The Brown Recluse - May 15, 2020
- Failed Manufactured Stone and Brick Veneer on New Construction Home. - April 12, 2020
- New NPMA Form 33 does not say you MUST treat for termites - March 1, 2020