Commonly found throughout the United States, The Brown recluse spider and wolf spider are often confused for each other. They look alike and even inhabit similar surroundings. There are, however, discernable differences.
The Brown recluse spider gets its name from its preference to live in areas of a home that are secluded. They live for about 18 to 24 months. The best way to identify the brown recluse is a ‘violin shaped’ marking at the back of its head. This has earned brown recluses the names fiddleback or violin spiders.
Brown recluses are about half as large as the wolf spider. People cannot tell them apart because they are both brown. The brown recluse, however, always has a uniformly covered abdomen, tan to dark brown. Its legs are slender, often covered in fine hair. Wolf spiders are brown, gray or tan, with dark markings.
Brown recluses molt and shed their exoskeleton five times before reaching adulthood. A mature brown recluse is about as big as a fifty cent piece.
Brown recluses usually rest on their webs during the day but come out at night to hunt for their food. They will catch live prey or feed on dead insects, even other brown recluse spiders.
While most spiders have eight eyes, the brown recluse has 6, arranged in a semi-circle.
The Wolf spider is large, hairy and not as venomous as its appearance. An adult wolf spider is about 1.5 inches. It gets its name from its stealth tactics when hunting for prey. Wolf spiders will also prey on brown recluse spiders.
Wolf spiders have prominent eyes that shine in light, almost like a cat’s. Don’t go stroking one on the head. Wolf spiders also have excellent night vision and are experts at camouflage.
Wolf spiders live almost everywhere in the world, especially in grasslands and meadows, but also in mountains, deserts, rainforests and wetlands. Their favorite hiding places are abandoned buildings, closets, sheds, attics, garages, yards and basements.
Brown recluse venom vs Wolf venom
Both brown recluses and wolf spiders are venomous, but not lethal. However, there is a very good reason why these often confused spiders should be told apart. A wolf spider’s bite will not do any serious damage. Redness or swelling may occur, but would disappear after a few days.
A brown recluse’s bite is usually painless, because they have very small fangs. Redness or swelling usually appears 3 to 8 hours after being bitten. An itchy or burning sensation will then develop over the course of several hours.
The venom injected by the brown recluse is usually localized to the bitten area. If the venom is minimal, the discomfort goes away after about 4 days. If not, the venom spreads, causing necrosis.
The Brown recluse and wolf spider are rarely aggressive and would only bite when feeling trapped.
If bitten, you should try and find the spider before it scurries off. Elevate the area and apply ice. The ice helps to slow down the spread of venom in the body. Immediately seek medical help.