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Eight Legs of Nightmare – Lurking in the Dark

“The Brown Recluse and Its Lookalikes”

When you think of spiders, you probably want to jump on your couch or leap in fear. This sentiment is definitely true if you’ve watched the 90s thriller, *Arachnophobia*. With spiders coming out of walls, bathtub and sink drains… That film turned many of us into fear mongering spider-detectives, scrutinizing every eight-legged visitor as a potential threat. If you live in Alabama, one spider that often raises the alarm is the Brown Recluse. But before you grab the nearest flamethrower and burn your house down, let’s explore how to identify this notorious eight legged nightmare and its lookalikes.

The Infamous Brown Recluse: Where Are They Found?

Brown Recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) are indeed present in Alabama, but their range is more concentrated in the southern and central regions of the United States. They favor secluded, undisturbed areas like woodpiles, sheds, closets, basements, and crawlspaces – hence the name “recluse.” They prefer to stay hidden in dark damp areas and typically older structures. Since they are such recluses, most of us will be lucky and never encounter one. But because there are so many spiders that are similar, you should learn to quickly identify a brown recluse.

How to Identify a Brown Recluse

Identifying a Brown Recluse can be tricky, but here are some definitive markers:
– **Violin Shape**: The most well-known characteristic is the violin-shaped marking on its back, with the neck of the violin pointing towards the rear of the spider.
– **Size and Color**: They are typically light to dark brown and measure about 1/4 to 3/4 inches in body length.
– **Eyes**: Unlike most spiders, which have eight eyes, Brown Recluses have six eyes arranged in pairs (dyads).

Spiders That Look Like a Brown Recluse

Many spiders in Alabama resemble the Brown Recluse, causing unnecessary panic. Here are some common culprits:

Wolf Spiders

These robust spiders are often mistaken for Recluses due to their brown color. However, wolf spiders are larger, hairier, and lack the violin marking. Plus, they have eight eyes in three distinct rows You typically find them in the yard, although they often find their way in the home. Be careful about stepping on one as they may have tiny babies riding on their back.

Southern House Spiders

Most closely resembles the brown recluse. This spider is often found in homes, these spiders can be similar in color and size but lack the violin shape and have a different eye pattern with eight eyes. Also the pedipalps (arm like feature near mouth) are much longer than the recluses.

Cellar Spiders

Known for their long, spindly legs, cellar spiders (or daddy long-legs) are harmless and easily confused with recluses. They have a much thinner body and very long legs compared to the stocky build of a Brown Recluse.

Common House Spiders

These are smaller and have a more globular body. They often come in various shades of brown but lack the characteristic markings and eye arrangement. They typically just hide in corners of your home.


Don’t burn the house down – Identification Tips

Here’s a quick rundown to help you feel comfortable identifying spider type:
Count the Eyes: If it has eight eyes, it’s not a Brown Recluse.
Look for the Violin: No violin marking? It’s not a Recluse.
Consider the Habitat: Recluses prefer dark damp and undisturbed areas. If you find a spider in a frequently visited spot, it’s less likely to be a Recluse.

Safety First – But No Arson, Please

If you suspect you’ve found a Brown Recluse, there’s no need to panic. Here are some steps to safely manage the situation:
Catch and Release – Use a glass and a piece of paper to trap and release the spider outside.
Call the Pros – If you’re unsure, contact pest control professionals to handle the situation.
Clean Up – Keep your home clutter-free to reduce hiding spots for all kinds of spiders.

Remember, while the movie *Arachnophobia* made us all a bit wary of spiders, burning down your house is not the answer. With a little knowledge and caution, you can coexist peacefully with your eight-legged neighbors.

In conclusion, while Alabama is home to the Brown Recluse and its many lookalikes, distinguishing between them is key to avoiding unnecessary fear. So, next time you spot a spider, take a deep breath, do a little detective work, and save the flames for the grill, not your living room.

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