What’s the difference the brown recluse and the brown widow spider?

 In Spider Control

The climate in Louisiana makes it a prime location for several species of spiders. While the majority of these spiders are not dangerous, there are a few among them that are venomous and could pose a significant health risk toward humans. In the group of spiders that could be a hazard to those living in Louisiana, are the brown recluse, the brown widow and the black widow. It is important for residents to be familiar with what these spiders look like, their behaviors and the correct plan of action that should be taken when a person suffers a bite.

The Brown Recluse

What it looks like

Most brown recluse spiders are a dullish brown color, but there are some that may come in a yellowish shade. The body of an adult can grow up to about 11mm in length and with the legs and all, they are approximately the size of a quarter. They also have no stripes or spots to identify them from.

A common nickname for the brown recluse is the fiddle-back spider because of the violin shaped mark on the cephalothorax. Spotting this mark is the best way for making a positive identification of a brown recluse spider.


The brown recluse is one of the more dangerous spiders that inhabit the North American continent. While death is a possible outcome from the bite of a brown recluse, this only occurs in very rare cases. The types of symptoms that a person may experience will depend upon the location of the bite and the amount of venom that is injected with the bite. Most bites actually heal in very little time and result in only minimal damage, but when a bite is serious, it can result in blisters and necrosis. The death of living tissue will cause a deep open wound that will usually result in scarring.


One thing that people need to understand is that the brown recluse does not go looking to bite people. They only bite when they feel threatened. A person can effectively avoid getting bit by a brown recluse by taking a few measures to guard against the possibility.

If you are going to do some work outside, make sure to wear gloves. If you are digging around in the garage or attic, make sure to look into boxes and small spaces where a spider could be hidden. If you plan to wear a pair of shoes that have been stored away for a while, shake them out before putting them on. If you pull old clothes or blankets out of storage, make sure to shake them out before you use them.

Handling a Bite

If a brown recluse bites a person, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If medical attention is not readily available, cover the bite with an antibacterial gel like bacitracin and try to dress the area with a band-aid or gauze bandages. Try to avoid exposing the bite to hot water because this will help the venom to spread.

The Brown Widow

What it looks like

Though called the brown widow, this spider can range in color. You may see them with a nice solid brown color, or they could be a patchy or mottled brown. Occasionally, they might be a tannish color or white. A good identifying mark for a brown widow female is the orange hourglass shape that appears on the underside of their abdomen, and the black and brown striped legs.


Though not quite as dangerous as its relative the black widow, the brown widow can pose a significant threat to human health. Most of the symptoms will be centered on the location of the bite and it can be quite painful. Some of the additional symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, lethargy, sweating, nausea and shortness of breath.


The brown widow is known to be less aggressive than other spiders in the widow family, but they might still bite if they feel like they are in danger. They generally can be found in places that are dark and go undisturbed for long periods of time. An outside woodpile or an old tool shed would be prime locations for a brown widow. The best way to prevent bites is to shake out any item that has been stored away for a long time before you use it. Maintaining good screens and windows can also be a good way to keep them out.

Handling a Bite

The bite of a brown widow does tend to be less threatening than that of the black widow, but it is still recommended that you seek medical attention. If it is possible, try to catch the spider in a secure container and bring it to the hospital for identification. Identifying the spider can help the medical personal to form a more effective treatment plan.

While most people never suffer a bite from a venomous spider, they are more common than many would think. Take care when engaged in activities that are in a location that is good for spider habitation and get a bite treated as quickly as you can. If you believe that your home or property has a significant problem with venomous spiders, there are products and professional services like Presto-X “Formerly Fischer” that can be effective for spider management.

If you think you have either of these spiders near your home, contact us today so we can get rid of them for you!

What’s the difference the brown recluse and the brown widow spider? In Louisiana & Mississippi

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