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brown recluse and wolf spider

As the weather cools down, spiders tend to move into our homes. There are many different types of spiders that we can see inside and outside our homes. Some of these include jumping spiders, garden spiders, grass spiders, and of course brown recluse spiders and wolf spiders. These last two seem to be feared the most of any of the spiders because the brown recluse is quite toxic and the wolf spider is quite large. Brown recluse spiders and wolf spiders are quite different, but because brown recluse spiders are known for the damage they can do to a person if they bite them, people picture them as a much larger, scarier looking spider.

Brown recluse spiders are actually not scary looking at all, they are large, as big as a quarter, but most of their size is actually their legs. They are a brown spider with a darker brown fiddle shape or violin shape on their cephalothorax, the part in front of the abdomen section on a spider.

Brown recluse spiders are called that because they are reclusive. They prefer to not be out in the open. Many times people are bitten when they go to get a box out of their storage room or grab a sweater after a long hot summer and they don’t know that the spider is on the other side. The spider will bite if trapped when the person grabs the box or when they feel threatened.

The bite does not necessarily mean you will have a horrible reaction that may lead to necrotic and ulcerous lesions, like the pictures on the internet show. People have varying degrees of sensitivity to spider bites, just as we all do to bee stings. People who are bitten by brown recluse spiders may not feel the bite at the time it happens. The reaction occurs 4-6 hours later and will expand outward from the original bite location. Unless you find the spider, it is difficult to determine the type of spider that bit you after the wound is noticed. 

Wolf spiders, on the other hand, are very large and rarely cause much damage. Wolf spiders are most commonly found outside but will wander into homes from time to time. You will probably only find a few wolf spiders in your house throughout the fall and winter. Wolf spiders are one of the largest spiders found in Nebraska, which is why they are so feared. These spiders are typically quite fuzzy and can range in size from fairly small to quite large. The bite from a wolf spider does not usually cause a very bad reaction, but it can leave a welt.

Whether you encounter a brown recluse spider, a wolf spider, or any other type of spider do not worry too much about it. It is not going to bother you unless you bother it. If you see one and you are afraid of it, you can always just smash it with your shoe or two bricks, or you can get it into a container and release it outside, or you can pick it up with toilet paper and flush it down the toilet. Either way, just be cautious to not get bit because even if it is not a poisonous spider, the bite may still hurt. 

Nicole Stoner
Nicole Stoner
Extension Educator - Horticulture

As a professional horticulturist, Nicole's focus areas include trees, shrubs, lawns, gardens, and insects.

Gage County Extension
1115 West Scott
Beatrice, NE

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