Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Brown Recluses


Do brown recluses have a preference as to who they bite? I ask this because they have only bitten me and not my husband and I want to know why - if that is even possible.

Thank you for your response ahead of time.

Dear Cindy - First off, no - these spiders are not in the habit of seeking anyone out to bite. Then, how certain are you that whatever bite symptoms you have experienced were caused by a spider, let alone recluse spiders - have you ever seen/caught a spider in the act of biting? In all my 60+ years of studying insects and spiders, I do not believe that I have ever seen so much bad information circulate on a single species than I have seen on the brown recluse. In the first place, recluse spiders are reluctant to bite - I have seen verified reports of people living in a house where these spiders were very numerous, but no one there ever was bitten by one (see http://tinyurl.com/p3flumm for details). Then, these spiders often are erroneously blamed for skin lesions that resemble bites. I do not believe that any physician is capable of determining that a recluse spider caused a skin lesion by visual examination alone, tests would have to be run to see if any trace of recluse venom was present.
  I suggest that you read the very detailed article t http://tinyurl.com/nc98fjkthat dispels much of the mythology that has developed around the brown recluse spider. Among other things, you will find that recluse spiders are not at all common in Georgia - a search of all records found "...only about 100 verified brown recluse sightings, mostly in the northwest portion of the state."

Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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