Most of the time you won’t even see them, or recognize them for what they are. Especially if you aren’t familiar with how they look.
Recently I picked up a toolbox to move it when a big recluse jumped out at me, and went scurrying across my barn floor. I put the toolbox right inside the door of the barn a few days earlier because I needed tools from it, and I wanted it in a more accessible place than where I normally keep it.
But now I’d finished that job so I went to put the toolbox away. I don’t know where that spider came from. It was a big one – obviously well into adulthood. Maybe it was on the toolbox when I moved it over, but that move should’ve spooked it into running just like the move when I picked the box up this time. So I suspect it found the toolbox after I placed it inside the barn door, and decided to build a new home there.
Not long ago as I helped a neighbor move I looked inside a storage closet, and spotted a number of Brown Recluse Spiders living there. I suggested to the neighbor that he take care when unpacking the items he moved from that closet. He had no idea the spiders were brown recluse. So I showed him one, but I’m not sure if he can recognize one now.
These spiders are pretty distinctive. At least they are to me. But then, I have 12+ years of experience in dealing with them. I learned a long time ago how to spot one, and recognize it from a distance. Which, of course, is the only safe way to identify these insects. You sure don’t want to get too close, though over the years I got closer than I’m comfortable with a few times.
My first “up close and personal” encounter with the recluse happened when I picked up a rodent bait box inside a loading dock door. We used the bait boxes to control mice and rat populations. This particular building was a storeroom for one of my hospital accounts. They kept patient records there.
When I opened that box to see if it needed fresh bait I caught movement. A flash of recognition went through my mind, and I dropped that box quick. Then I got out a glue board to catch that bug. As I put the glue board in the box another recluse came out from under a bait block.
I carried a long slender spatula as a tool for probing tight spaces, and I used that to coax those spiders onto the glue board Once they climbed onto the glue they were stuck, and couldn’t get away. I put them in the back of my truck, and took them back to the office that evening so I could get a close look under the microscope.
Spiders don’t really like to attack something that’s a lot bigger than them – like you are. Their attack is a natural reaction. When something disturbs the web a vibration goes out. The spider feels the vibration, instantly thinks food, and goes looking for a meal.
When it finds the reason for the disturbance the first thing the spider does is bite to paralyze the prey. All spiders are venomous, but mostly not enough to hurt us humans (except in the case of somebody who’s allergic to the venom). When it bites a human the spider quickly realizes that the prey is way to big for it to mess with. Of course by that time it already bit you.
The recluse bite is pretty nasty. One bit my father on the middle finger of his left hand. Right on the first joint. The venom started eating away at his finger so the doctors cut it off at the second joint to keep the poison from spreading into his hand, up his arm, and into his body.
Yeah, a real nasty bite.
They’re everywhere these days like I said. The best defense is an ability to recognize them without getting too close. Getting that ability took me a couple months after I first became a pest control technician. But with practice, and the right information, you can develop the skill of identifying Brown Recluse Spiders. Might take you a little more time than a couple months though.