Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown Recluse Spiders

Experiences from OFL Readers

The two emails below were sent to me in response to the following tips in the April 18 Old Fashioned Tips. I do want to say that when I shared the herbal remedies they were in NO WAY meant as a substitute for seeing a doctor. That should be done immediately! They can be used in addition to medical treatment, but not in place of it. You can see pictures and details on the brown recluse here.

There is also a page from that is VERY detailed on the medical treatment, including pictures and references. It's here.

The best thing to do when bitten by a brown recluse is to make a poultice (paste) from the weed, Plantain (Ribwort) and apply to the bite. Keep renewing with fresh plant. I always make a paste of charcoal powder and apply to any spider bite as soon as possible. It may be well to alternately apply charcoal with the plantain. ~Cherie, Center for Herbal Studies

Just so people are aware, the brown recluse spider has a much larger territory than the map on the link shows. We have them in Colorado as well. Our friends daughter was bitten on the face while sleeping on the living room floor. They are an extremely nasty and painful bite just as Michelle described. They are nothing to fool around with! ~Valerie

I would recommend using tea tree oil for spider bites, even those of the brown recluse (but get immediate medical attention as well). A local radio celebrity got bitten once--we should definitely use caution when visiting unfamiliar areas. These arachnids are probably more common than you think. The Australians even use tea tree oil on snake bites, and since they also have a lot of other deadly creatures, it's fitting that the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) only grows there. The oil belongs in every first aid kit, as it kills bacteria and fungi (but it's only for external use). So watch out for those fiddle back (recluse) and red hourglass (black widow) spiders, and have a safe spring! ~Brent

Valerie states an the April 18th OFTs that the map is wrong. I wonder if the little girl had been bitten by a Hobo spider (pictures & info. here), which is a "cousin" of the BR. Where as the Recluse has a more light-coffee colored abdomen, the Hobo has dark brown and black striping/spotting. There are folks who swear that the agressive spiders up here in Washington are BRs, but they're actually Hobos. I have battled quite a few in my house, and they are intelligent, agressive, and have a definite lack of fear (I once had one charge after me!). You can purchase traps and those help ( is listed on the back of the info slip that was included.) The info sheet states about the Hobo: "The hobo spider is a fast moving, moderately large (14-16mm) brown spider, wtih a chevron-like marking on the dorsal abdomen, WITHOUT rings on the legs...." Also, my family "bombs" the house every summer, which is the time of the most bites. (Want to see something gross? Do that, then count how many poisonous spiders you have living with you! ) We use a general fogger that takes care of fleas, silverfish, spiders... anything you have. We started after adopting a cat with a flea problem, and after one look at the spider remains... I haven't stopped!

Also, it claims that Sac Spiders (picture and info. here) are found in many parts of the US, and are "probably responsible for most "Brown Recluse" bites reported in certain parts of the country." Although, I do not know what parts they are refering to. They are smaller (9-12mm) and are yellowish and prefer to live amongst plants, but sometimes are found in houses.

I used to be afraid of spiders... now I'm just afraid of CERTAIN spiders. ~Thank you, Selena

Second, a few words about the tips given for brown recluse spider bites. I've been bitten twice, both times on the inside of my left knee, the 2nd bite exactly 7 yrs. after the 1st bite, and only a quarter inch away from the 1st, so I have first hand (knee?) experience. I felt neither bite, they are not painful like a black widow's bite. These spiders prefer to live in places that are not disturbed, and they are small, not too noticeable. Closets, cellars, attaics, garages, undisturbed garden areas are prime living quarters for them.

I would caution your readers that the brown recluse bite can be fatal, it can cause the loss of a limb or extremity, and can kill unborn children! While herbal treatments may help, this is something that demands the best medical care! This, from the dermatologist who cared for me when I was bitten. He had specialized in a study of brown recluse spiders while in med school, and developed a way to "milk" the venom from them to produce an antivenom. Prior to this, the procedure was to grind up the entire spider.

The severity of the bite depends on several factors; how large or old the spider is, how much "venom" is delivered with the bite, the location of the bite, the health of the person bitten, etc., etc.

Mine was a bad bite. I received shots every other day for a month, and was put on total bed rest during that time. In spite of the best care, I still lost a lot of tissue. The bite kills all the tissue around it, and, in the worst cases, can get into one's bloodstream and do even worse damage. The second bite was not nearly as severe, but, again, the doctor monitored and treated it as aggresively as the first.

There was such trauma to that area of my body, that a year after the 2nd bite, more blisters appeared, and, of course, I thought that it was a third bite. Instead, it was an outbreak of herpes, which we all carry, but normally lies dormant. In periods of stress, it can manifest itself outside the body, in this form, blisters at the site of past trauma. A few years later, that same knee had to be replaced. I do not know if the bites caused any weakening to the tissues of the knee, which eventually tore, requiring first laproscopic surgery and then total replacement, but I wouldn't doubt it.

So, if you've read this far, please do not just report on herbal remedies for this spider's bite. While a bite from a black widow is very painful, and can cause severe stomach upset, it is rarely fatal. The brown recluse's bite is far worse, and should not be taken as less than VERY SERIOUS. ~Becky

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