Spiders That Look Like the Brown Recluse and How to Tell Them Apart

The Brown Recluse spider is mostly unremarkable-looking, but its bite (though rare) can cause serious flesh wounds. Brown Recluse spiders are uncommon outside of the South Central and Midwestern States but often come indoors for shelter during the colder seasons.

There are several other types of harmless brown spiders that are often found in houses and look very similar to the Brown Recluse, but how can you tell them apart?

What are Brown Recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa)?

The Brown Recluse spider (sometimes also known as the violin or fiddleback spider) is a potentially dangerous arachnid found throughout the South Central and Midwestern United States. Brown Recluse spiders are small (about the size of a quarter) and unremarkable looking, but their bite can cause serious wounds.

By nature, the Brown Recluse spider is an outdoor bug and is usually found under woodpiles and rocks. However, they are well adapted for indoor living, and it’s not uncommon for them to find their way into attics and basements.

Although Brown Recluse spiders are not aggressive and their bites are rare, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these arachnids, and their look-alikes.

Huntsman Spiders

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What are they?

Huntsman spiders are so-named for their formidable hunting skills. Unlike most spiders (which use their webs to entangle bugs) the Huntsman spider chases down its prey on foot.

As you might expect, they’re extremely fast and can grow to monstrous sizes. With a leg span of up to 12 inches (about the size of a dinner plate), the Giant Huntsman Spider is one of the largest spiders on Earth (though the average Huntsman measures a mere 5 inches).

As terrifying as they sound, Huntsman spiders are not considered dangerous to humans. However, they can deliver a painful bite (which may cause side-effects) if provoked.

Huntsman Spider vs. Brown Recluse

Huntsman spiders are sometimes mistaken for Brown Recluse spiders, but there are two easy ways to tell them apart.

  • The size: Huntsman spiders are usually much bigger than Brown Recluse spiders, which are only the size of an American quarter.
  • The markings: Both spiders are brown, but Brown Recluse spiders have a distinctive, violin-shaped marking on their abdomens. Huntsman spiders do not have this.

Wolf Spiders

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What are they?

Wolf spider refers to all the members of one big spider family which, like the Huntsman spiders, chase down their prey rather than catching it in webs.

Wolf spiders are found almost everywhere but, with their camouflage coloring, may be hard to spot. These large-ish spiders can be black, brown, gray, or tan in color, and are marked with dark stripes.

Wolf spiders will bite in defense, but their venom isn’t potent enough to cause more than some redness and swelling.

Wolf Spider vs Brown Recluse

At a glance, the Wolf spider can look pretty similar to the Brown Recluse. However, there are a few key differences between the two:

  • The size: Wolf spiders are generally larger than Brown Recluses
  • The markings: Whereas the Brown Recluse has a distinct violin-shaped marking, the Wolf spider just has plain old stripes (which are dark in color)
  • The hairiness: Wolf spiders are hairy, but Brown Recluse spiders appear hairless

House Spiders

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What are they?

House spider is a generic term to describe any spider you find in your house. In reality, you probably have dozens, or even hundreds of spider species in your home – more than you care to think about!

Most species of house spiders are entirely harmless to humans (and can be useful agents of indoor insect control). However, it’s important to learn the difference between a generic house spider and the slightly-concerning Brown Recluse.

House Spider vs. Brown Recluse

The key to telling a House spider from a Brown Recluse is to pay attention to their habits:

  • Their visibility: As the name suggests, Brown Recluse spiders like to keep a low profile around the home. If you’re finding spiders everywhere, they’re probably just the common house variety.
  • Their habitat: House spiders are more likely to be found on windowsills, under furniture, and hanging out in corners. Brown Recluse spiders prefer to hide in more secluded areas.
  • Their markings: Most house spiders will be small, brown, and boring-looking. If you’re unsure, look for the violin marking on the back – if it’s there, it’s a Brown Recluse.

Hobo Spiders

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What are they?

The Hobo spider is a member of the Funnel-web family and looks quite a lot like the Brown Recluse. They have a reputation for aggression but, although they may bite, will only do so if they feel threatened.

Unlike some of their more toxic funnel-web cousins, Hobo spider bites are not considered dangerous and are unlikely to cause more than a mild reaction.

Hobo Spider vs Brown Recluse

You can tell a Hobo spider from a Brown Recluse by taking a closer look at:

  • The markings: Hobo spiders usually have a brown body and yellow markings, but they are missing the violin-shaped that characterizes the Brown Recluse.
  • The web: Hobo spiders build funnel-shaped webs, Brown Recluse spiders don’t build webs at all. Check the surrounding area for evidence of web building.

Conclusion

Brown Recluse spiders are widespread in some parts of the United States, and a source of fear for many. Although it is very rare for a Brown Recluse spider to bite a person, their venom can cause necrotic flesh wounds, where the area of flesh around the bite side begins to rot.

Brown Recluse spiders also have a habit of coming indoors, especially during the chilly fall and winter months. Learning to spot a Brown Recluse among other common, house-dwelling spiders (like the Huntsman, Wolf, Hobo, and House spider) can help you stay safe from bites.

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