Dangerous Pests: The Brown Recluse in Michigan

Brown Recluse Spider close-up

 

Of all the pest questions we answer, maybe the most common is, “is that thing dangerous?” The less we know about the pests we’re looking at, the scarier they seem. Let’s demystify the brown recluse spider in Michigan and help you feel safer about the spiders in your neighborhood.

We’ll cover what brown recluse spiders look like, brown recluse size, and how to avoid spider bites in Michigan. These are the pests that can pose a legitimate danger to people, pets, and property. With a little knowledge and maybe some professional help, you can keep spiders out of your home and avoid nightmares about creepy crawlers.

What is A Brown Recluse Spider?

The brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is a venomous recluse spider native to the southeastern US.

Like most spiders, the brown recluse is considered very shy. They’ll go out of their way to avoid humans and would rather run away than act aggressively when confronted. Most brown recluses spend daytime hiding in dry, dark areas and hunt for food at night.

They build small, asymmetrical webs but don’t use these webs to hunt their prey. Instead, they hunt by lunging and using their venom to immobilize and kill it. Their webs are built out of sight and used as a retreat.

Brown recluse spiders are well-adapted to living indoors and will produce offspring in homes. Their eggs are off-white or tan colored and can be found in round or cone-shaped egg sacs. Each sac can contain up to 300 eggs. A good incentive for spider control measures!

Close up of a brown recluse spider

What Does A Brown Recluse Look Like?

Brown recluse spiders are uniformly tan to dark brown in color. Both the legs and torso lack any banding, spines, or mottling. All adult brown recluses have a distinctive dark “violin-shaped” mark on their backs which often prompts the nickname “violin” or “fiddleback” spider.

Unlike most spiders, brown recluses have six eyes instead of eight. The eyes are arranged in pairs – one in front and one on each side of their head. The spider’s legs are long, thin, and covered with fine hairs but not spikes.

Because of their size, brown recluse spider identification can be tricky. A pest control expert can help identify a brown recluse or any other spider species in your home.

How Big is A Brown Recluse Spider?

Brown recluse spiders measure around 1/4th to ½ inch (6 to 20 mm) long. That’s about the size of a quarter – not exactly the giant menace you may have pictured.

By comparison, an adult tarantula will grow to 4-6 inches in length. Roughly ten times brown recluse size.

Why Are Brown Recluse Spiders Dangerous?

The brown recluse is one of three North American spiders with significantly dangerous venom. Brown recluse bites are very, very uncommon, but when they happen, they can be extremely dangerous. Though 90% of bites heal quickly without any issues, 10% may lead to severe symptoms.

Brown recluse venom is necrotic, which means it can trigger cellular death whenClose up of a brown recluse bite injected into living tissue. This venom may inflict major tissue damage around the site of the bite, creating a large wound and scar.

Reactions to brown recluse bites are often delayed by 3 to 8 hours. The bite itself is painless. Hours after the bite, the victim may develop a blister or discolored lesion. The wound site will swell and become very painful. This process may be accompanied by vomiting, faintness, nausea, or cramping. Within 48 hours, necrosis may manifest. If that happens, the wound will turn purplish, then black in color. Eventually, the tissue may come away, creating a large wound. In this instance, seek professional medical help.

Again, it’s important to notjust how uncommon this is. Brown recluses very rarely bite humans, and even when they do those bites rarely develop into lesions.

Does Michigan Have Brown Recluse Spiders?

The brown recluse is native to the southeastern US. It’s not currently considered endemic to Michigan, and sightings here are quite rare.

As our climate changes, however, the brown recluse has been reported in southern Michigan more frequently. They are surprisingly hardy and can survive mild winters, especially if they have shelter. The brown recluse is most common in secluded, sheltered areas like rocky outcroppings, barns, forests, or wetlands.

Indoors, they’re most common in basements, attics, sheds, and other secluded locations. They may build webs in quiet corners, along awnings, or between boxes.

 

How Can I Avoid Spider Bites?

A doorway and stairs to a dark basementLuckily, spiders – especially the brown recluse – are shy. Most homes with brown recluses never report a bite. In most cases, a spider will run away vs become aggressive. If it does bite you, often it will be a “dry” bite where no venom is injected. The spider isn’t trying to kill you, it just wants you to go away.

The highest risk area for getting a spider bite is a crawl space or other restricted area where spiders are nesting. Your best prevention is to scope the area out before entering. Gloves, long sleeves and protective clothing can help.

Other areas to be aware of spiders: boxes, firewood stacks, laundry piles, shoes and other items that have been stored or untended for a long period of time. Spiders may have moved in and made these dark quiet areas their own.

What Kinds of Spiders Bite in Michigan?

Not many Michigan spiders have fangs capable of penetrating human skin. The two main spiders you have to worry about in Michigan are the brown recluse and the black widow. They are the only ones with a venom that is toxic enough to affect humans. Other biting spiders are the hobo spider and the wolf spider.

Every now and then there are anomalies in the animal kingdom that are difficult to explain like when a group of Mediterranean recluse spiders infested the University library at Ann Arbor.

Fast Solutions to Michigan Spider Problems

If you have questions about spiders where you live or are worried about how to be safe around spiders, give Griffin a call or contact us online. We’d be happy to address your concerns and prevent spider infestations in your home or business.

Dangerous Pests: The Brown Recluse in Michigan

Is That a Brown Recluse Spider?

Brown recluse spider

There are two spiders in Michigan with dangerous venomous bites: the black widow and the brown recluse. The black widow may be more famous, but the brown recluse tends to be scarier. At least you always know a black widow when you see it! These spiders, on the other hand, tend to look like every other little brown spider. So, of course, they’re the first thing you think of when you see any little brown spider. 

If you don’t want to freak out about every brown spider, you should learn how to spot a brown recluse by sight. This isn’t as hard as it might sound! There are actually quite a few ways to tell a Brown recluse apart from other spiders. You just have to know what to look for. Next time you spot a spider, look for each of the following “tells.” If the spider looks like the brown recluse below, then you’ll know to watch out for it:

Is that spider a brown recluse? Infographic

Still not sure whether you’re looking at a brown recluse spider? VERY sure you’re looking at one and want help removing it right away? Just want help removing your spiders, no matter what they are? 

No matter your spider problem, Griffin Pest is your solution. We’ll remove spiders, figure out how they got in, and make sure they can’t get in again. You won’t have to worry about dealing with spider infestations–venomous or otherwise–ever again.

 

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What You Should Know About the Black Widow in Michigan

Black widow on web

There is perhaps no spider as well-known and feared as the Black widow. You’ve probably never seen a Black widow before, but you’d be able to identify one immediately. The spider and its deadly venom loom so large in the collective imagination that they enjoy a near-mythical status. If you see a Black widow in a movie or tv show, you know it’s a bad omen.

Fortunately, however, the Black widow isn’t mythical. It’s not bad luck, a harbinger of evil, or any other creepy stuff like that. It’s just a spider, and like every other spider, it can be understood, anticipated, and controlled. Here’s everything you should know about understanding Black widows in Michigan, including how to keep them away from you.

What is a Black Widow?

What is a Black Widow?

Black widow spiders are a type of spider belonging to the Latrodectus genus. There are three species of Black widow spiders in North America. The only one of these three species ever encountered in Michigan is the Northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus). This spider is about 1.5” long and .25” in diameter, making it about the size of a paper clip. They are completely black except for the infamously distinctive red hourglass-shaped marking on their abdomen.

Northern black widows also have a series of red spots along the middle of their abdomens. Some may possess white stripes on their abdomens. Northern black widows tend to build large, expansive webs which they use to catch prey and tend to eggs. They build these webs in low-lying areas near where they can catch insect prey. You may find them around window wells, garages, pools, grills, or wood piles. They tend to be most active between April and October.

Where Did Black Widows Come From?

Black widows are native to the US. The Northern black widow can be found throughout the eastern US. The spider is frequently encountered in Michigan, particularly in the Western lower peninsula and in forested or rural areas. Like other spiders, Black widows gravitate toward any environment where they have a steady source of prey. They build webs in and around areas insects like flies frequent. They’re also attracted to dark, dry areas where they can hide easily.

If you have Black widows near your home, it’s because they’re successfully hunting near you. Spiders like Black widows often build webs near passageways other pests use to enter your home. When smaller pests attempt to access your home for shelter, the Black widow catches and eats them. Black widows may also build webs outside in any shady, sheltered areas where they can catch food. Black widows may occasionally hide in shoes, so be careful if you think you have an infestation.

Black widows are considered the most venomous spider in North America

Why Are Black Widows a Problem?

First, the scary stuff: Black widows are considered the most venomous spider in North America. Black widow venom is reportedly 15 times more potent than a rattlesnake’s (though they can’t administer as much). The neurotoxin that makes up Black widow venom is called “latrotoxin.” Latrotoxin attacks the nervous system, which can be extremely painful. Black widow bites can cause nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, weakness, and more. In extremely rare cases, the bites can be fatal.

Now, to calm you down: Black widow bites are extremely rare. The Black widow is naturally shy and timid–even for a spider. They would always rather retreat and escape than bite a threat. Black widows will only bite if they’re very startled or they feel they have no other choice. Even if they do bite, they often don’t inject their venom. All you usually have to do to avoid Black widow bites is avoiding antagonizing the spiders.

What Can We Do About Black Widows?

Keeping Black widows away from your home means depriving them of the things they want. Black widows want food, shelter, and dry, warm hiding places. Northern black widows will eat pretty much anything small enough to get stuck in their webs. That means flies, mosquitoes, beetles, arthropods like centipedes, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and even other spiders. If you can prevent other pests from getting into your home, you’ll deprive Black widows of their food.

Black widows require warm and dry environments to stay active. They prefer temperatures of 70 degrees or warmer. They’re surprisingly good at seeking out these warm environments, especially when outdoor temperatures begin dropping. Finding and patching up drafts, especially in your basement, will help keep Black widows out. Finally, you should clear the clutter both indoors and outdoors. Black widows seek out shelter to hide and build webs inside. If they find plenty of cover in your yard, they’ll creep ever closer to your home.

Normally, this is where we’d tell you not to be afraid of the pest we just wrote about. Here, we understand what a silly suggestion that is. Black widow spiders are very frightening. Even now that you understand them, you probably can’t shake that fear. But now that you’re armed with this knowledge, you can also do something with that fear.

If you want help keeping Black widows out of your home, give Griffin a call any time. We’ll keep any kinds of spiders away–even the scary ones.