How to Get Rid of Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown Recluse on a coin

The brown recluse gets its name for a reason: This venomous spider hides in dark areas of your home and yard, which poses challenges in eradicating them. How can you get rid of brown recluse spiders? Cleaning, strong scents, and pesticides are among the ways you can repel and eradicate them.

But beware: A brown recluse spider bite can cause serious wounds, so banishing them may be best left to a professional exterminator.

How to Identify a Brown Recluse Spider

What brown recluse spiders look like: Brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) are about the size of a quarter and come in various shades of brown. They’re sometimes called “fiddleback spiders” due to their violin-shaped markings. They also are often confused with wolf spiders.

Where brown recluse spiders live: Brown recluse spiders are found across much of the United States, from the South to the Midwest. They prey upon nuisance insects, like flies and mosquitoes, and are nocturnal hunters that can survive for months without food.

How to Kill Brown Recluse Spiders in Your House

Photo Credit: PeteMuller / Canva Pro / License

Brown recluse spiders can move into your home for warmth and stay for the food. Removing them calls for an integrated pest management approach. Spiders dine on nuisance insects, so part of your plan should be to remove those pests from the menu. Here are a few things that will discourage insects from invading your home:

  • Don’t leave out food or half-consumed drinks.
  • Cover trash and garbage cans.
  • Sweep up crumbs and mop up spills from floors.
  • Keep countertops clean of food and spills.
  • Clear away clutter in which spiders can hide.
  • Check boxes that come to your house. Spiders can hitch a ride on a delivery truck.

How to Get Rid of Brown Recluse Spiders Naturally

If you loathe the idea of spraying chemicals in your home, check out these methods that get rid of brown recluse spiders naturally. 

Vacuuming 

The first step in spider control is cleaning. Use a vacuum with a long-handled attachment to suck up spider webs and eggs. Where to look for webs: 

  • Corners and baseboards
  • Bed skirts
  • Underneath furniture
  • Cabinets (and look on top, too)
  • Closets
  • Near the furnace and water heater
  • Behind the toilet and tub
  • Under exposed stairs (basement or attic stairs)

A Vinegar-Based Spray  

Vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, can kill brown recluse spiders — and other spiders — on contact. If you can corner the spider and spray liberally with a 1-to-1 solution of vinegar and water, the vinegar’s acidity will kill it.

Strong Scents and Essential Oils   

Brown recluses, like most spiders, don’t like strong scents, such as eucalyptus. Nor do they like the scents of some essential oils, such as:

  • Peppermint oil
  • Lavender
  • Tea tree oil 

You can easily make a DIY spray to apply to areas where you believe spiders are hanging out. But use caution: Do not spray essential oils in places that pets can access. The ASPCA reports that essential oils can cause health issues in pets that get the solutions on their coat or paws, especially if they ingest the oils.

Diatomaceous Earth

Made of crushed sedimentary rock, diatomaceous earth powder damages the exoskeleton of a spider, leading to fatal dehydration. As a bonus, it will also kill the pests that spiders dine on. It works well in these areas:

  • Basements and attics
  • Garages and tool sheds

Caution: Use protection when spreading diatomaceous earth; it can irritate the eyes, nose, and nasal passages. Keep it away from areas that pets frequent, as it can also irritate their eyes, noses, and lungs. 

Glue Traps

Placing these in out-of-the-way areas, like basements or cabinets, can be an effective means of catching spiders. When set appropriately, sticky traps can snag dozens of brown recluses. They may snag some of the spider’s food supply, too.

Pesticides That Kill Brown Recluse Spiders

Research conducted at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M universities reports that it’s hard to kill brown recluses with most insecticides. However, insecticides that contain pyrethroids appear to produce better results. Insecticide dust tends to last longer than sprays. 

When applying any pesticide, wear protective clothing, read the directions, and follow the instructions.

How to Get Rid of Brown Recluse Spiders Outside

A picture of Brown Recluse Spider on ground
Photo Credit: PeteMuller / Canva Pro / License

From woodpiles to brush piles, brown recluse spiders can find plenty of places to hide in your yard. But some areas merit special attention and treatment:

Garage

If you see evidence of spiders, place glue traps near the area. Otherwise:

  • Clean up workspace and storage areas. Get rid of boxes; don’t leave tools or sports equipment lying around.
  • Seal containers. That includes containers of screws and nails, which make good hiding places for spiders.

Woodpile

Spiders can dine on pests that infiltrate your woodpile. It’s also a favorite hiding place to lay eggs, which will hatch in the warmth of your home. To discourage this:

  • Keep the woodpile away from your house.
  • Keep the wood off the ground and cover it; moist wood attracts many kinds of pests.
  • Rotate your wood to discourage pests from settling in.
  • If you see brown recluses in your pile, spray them, then take the pile apart.

Patio or Porch

Get the hose and spray the underside of outdoor furniture where webs might be hiding. Also, check around and underneath any storage bins.

How to Keep Brown Recluses Out of Your House

A little prevention goes a long way in keeping spiders — or any pest — out of your home. A few tips for homeowners:

Seal any Openings

Look for places that a spider can slip through. A few preventative chores:

  • Install door sweeps (including your garage door).
  • Repair screens.
  • Apply weather stripping to window and door casings.
  • Caulk or seal cracks and crevices, especially around the crawl space.

Limit Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lights attract insects, so keep lights off to keep spiders away from the house. If security is a concern, consider using yellow or sodium vapor bulbs, which aren’t so attractive to insects.  

Try Strategic Planting

As mentioned before, brown recluses don’t like strong scents. Placing the right plants near doorways and windows (including garages and sheds) may keep spiders away. Some possibilities: 

  • Lemongrass
  • Lavender
  • Mint catnip
  • Basil
  • Lemon balm
  • Rosemary 

How to Treat a Brown Recluse Spider Bite

A brown recluse spider is unlikely to bite unless it feels threatened. To stay safe, check any surface where you might accidentally come in contact with a brown recluse, including:

  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Your bed
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Dresser drawers

If you are bitten, you may not realize it at first. Spider bites can look like any other bug bite. If you develop any of these spider bite symptoms, seek medical attention.

  • A blister at the bite site
  • Pain that increases hours after the bite
  • Fever, chills, body aches
  • Swelling at the site
  • A wound that has a pale center that turns dark blue or purple with a red ring around it
  • A bite wound that grows into an open sore

FAQ About Brown Recluse Spiders

What Does a Brown Recluse Spider’s Web Look Like?

A brown recluse doesn’t spin a typical spider web. First, the web, which is off-white or grayish, is spun near the ground. As opposed to a typical web, the construction looks chaotic. A 2017 paper from William & Mary university says the brown recluse makes extra-tough silk by spinning loops into each strand — all designed to trap and hold prey. 

How Often Does a Brown Recluse Reproduce?

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the female has to mate only once to produce eggs throughout her life (which may be up to 2.5 years). Each egg sac contains 50 little spiders, and she can lay one or two egg sacs twice a year.

What Good is a Brown Recluse Spider?

In general, spiders have an important role in the environment. Since they dine on insects, they help control the population of pests that can damage plants and crops. Spiders also are a food source for birds and small animals.  

When to Call a Pest Control Pro

If you can’t get rid of brown recluses on your own, it’s time to call a professional pest-control service to solve your spider problem. A local pest control expert knows where to look for spiders and has specialized tools that can reach places that you can’t. Experts can also offer suggestions on how to prevent future issues with spiders and other household pests.

Main image credit: K-State Research Extension / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Allison Hoover

Alison Hoover is a Midwesterner through and through, and loves to spend her time baking and reading. Always at home in the dirt, as a kid, Alison raised a vegetable garden with her dad, and flower gardens with her mom.

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