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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Insects, Spiders, Mice and More

Helping Nebraskans enhance their lives through research-based education.

Brown Recluse Spiders in Nebraska

by Barb Ogg, PhD, Extension Educator

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There are 13 species of "brown" spiders in the U.S. The brown recluse spider, Loxosceles reclusa is the most widespread spider in the U.S. Nebraska is on the northern-most edge of the range of this spider, but we have had more clients bringing brown recluse to the Lancaster County extension office in the last few years.

Because of the locations where brown recluse have been found in the Lincoln/Lancaster County area, we believe that most of the brown recluse spider infestations get started when people move infested items, like boxes, into new places. The majority of these spiders come from structures where goods are shipped to, like commercial businesses, warehouses, or from storage facilities. Several apartment buildings in Lincoln have been seriously infested with brown recluse. In these cases, it is likely that tenants may have inadvertently caused an infestation by moving infested boxes with them–especially if they moved from an infested apartment or from southern states where brown recluse spiders are more common. We have rarely had homeowners find a brown recluse spider in their home.

Brown recluse spiders are medium-sized spiders and are tannish brown to dark brown in color . All "brown" spiders have a fiddle-shaped mark on their back, although it may be faded or missing in juvenile spiders. Their legs are long and thin compared with many spiders. The key feature that distinguishes them from all other spiders is that they have six eyes, arranged in pairs. A microscope or magnifying glass is needed to see this level of detail.

Brown Recluse Spider

The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office


Contact Information

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A,
Lincoln, NE 68528
| 402-441-7180

They are nocturnal hunters of insects and other spiders. The brown recluse naturally lives in outdoor situations, living in piles of debris, wood piles, under bark, logs, stones. Inside, it is found most commonly in undisturbed areas like closets, attics, crawlspaces, basements, cellars. They inhabit clothing, boxes, papers and like "layered" situations, like stacks of papers or clothes.

Some people get bitten when they dress and inadvertently "trap" the spider between the article of clothing and their skin. They may also get bitten if the spider is trapped in bed clothes or when people are cleaning infested areas. These spiders are very shy and do not bite unless trapped or threatened.

The bite may not be noticed when it occurs. Typically, the legion begins 4-6 hours after the bite and expands outward. It may become necrotic and ulcerous and can take months to heal. Plastic surgery, skin grafts may be necessary to repair the skin. Other symptoms are: fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, rashes.

It is impossible to identify a spider from a spider bite, but bites that become ulcerous are usually (and sometimes mistakenly) attributed to the brown recluse spider. There are other spiders whose bites may become inflamed and, very rarely, ulcerous. Persons bitten by a spider should make an effort to collect the spider and take it to the doctor or clinic for identification. Positive identification can be helpful in determining the type of medical care needed. In the case of the brown recluse, prompt medical attention may be needed to prevent a serious reaction.

Controlling brown recluse infestations is difficult because of the reclusive nature of these spiders. Control tactics are likely to make the spiders more active which may bring them into increased contact with persons living or working in the building. Control tactics include vacuuming and cleaning infested areas. Dust insecticides are often used in cracks, crevices and void areas. The generous use of sticky traps will help catch and remove spiders as they become more active responding to treatments.

We recommend working with an experienced pest control professional because of the difficulty in controlling this serious pest problem.

To prevent spiders from coming indoors:

  • Install tight-fitting screens on windows and doors; also install weatherstripping and door sweeps
  • Seal or caulk cracks and crevices where spiders can gain entry to the house
  • Equip vents in soffits, foundations, and roof gables with tight-fitting screens
  • Reduce outdoor lighting
  • Install yellow or sodium vapor light bulbs outdoors less attractive to insects
  • Remove wood piles, rock piles, heavy vegetation, leaves and other debris near the foundation that provide hiding places for sac spiders
  • Eliminate household pests that serve as food for spiders
  • Trim branches of trees and shrubs so that they do not touch the house