What’s the difference between Black Widow And Brown Recluse spiders?

Updated February 13, 2021

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Most human beings have an innate aversion to creepy crawly creatures, and for many, spiders are the most terrifying creepy crawlies of all. Our fears are irrational of course. Spiders have no interest in attacking humans and will generally do their best to avoid interaction with humans. 

However, there are two North American spiders that do have venom powerful enough to cause serious harm or death to an adult human. Both spiders make their homes in every region of the United States, but like all spiders, they prefer temperate climates so they tend to be found in far greater numbers in the southern states. Both spiders are common throughout Tennessee. 

The spider control experts at Foundation Pest Control can help keep you, your family, and your pets, safe from dangerous spider bites while preserving the delicate balance that spiders help to maintain.  At Foundation Pest Control we know the important roll that  insect’s play in our environment and we strive to  manage each situation appropriately.

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The Black Widow Spider  (Latrodectus Mactans) 


There are few Americans, and even fewer Tennessee residents who don’t know what a Black Widow looks like.  The Black Widow’s glossy black body and the bright red hourglass shape on its abdomen is notorious throughout Tennessee. 

How Dangerous Is A Black Widow?

The Black Widow’s bite is usually sharp and painful. There is often localized swelling  and pain that increases in intensity peaking at about 3 hours post bite.  Patients report systemic body aches, with the worst pain localized in the legs. They also report severe headaches, elevated blood pressure, vomiting, and heavy perspiration. Severe cases have reported difficulty breathing.

As alarming as these symptoms are, a single bite is unlikely to lead to death for a healthy adult, but severe symptoms may be dangerous for a child or elderly person. It is important to seek medical attention whenever any individual has been bit by a Black Widow. Symptoms vary significantly and, while it is rare, severe reactions have led to seizures and death.  Black Widows do not generally like to live in occupied areas so it is rare to see them inside your home. 

If you do happen to see these dangerous spiders inside, it is time to call in the pros at Foundation Pest Control to evict this dangerous predator.

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The Brown Recluse Spider ( Loxosceles Reclusa)

The Brown Recluse and its many cousins are common throughout Tennessee and the rest of the central and southern states. These dangerous spiders are found both inside and outside of the home. The Recluse is not quite as deadly as the Black Widow, a bite from a Brown Recluse can cause severe illness and in rare cases death in the young and elderly, or those who are sensitive to the venom.


The Brown Recluse, though not quite as distinctive in appearance as the Black Widow, is still fairly easy to recognize once you know what to look for. Brown Recluse are medium sized spiders ranging in size from 1/4 – 3/4 inch long and they can be any shade of brown from sand to mahogany. 

There are many brown spiders and several look very similar to Brown Recluse. If you want to be certain, and you don’t mind getting close to the spider, then you can look for one of two identifiers unique to the Brown Recluse.  Most telling is the violin shaped marking on the top of the spider’s body. This marking is unique to the Brown Recluse and it is the reason that you will often hear these spiders called Fiddle back Spiders as well.  Brown Recluse can be identified by their unusual eyes. Where most spiders have 8 eyes, Brown Recluse have only 6. The Recluse has 3 pairs of eyes in a semi-circle pattern on the top of the head.  

How Dangerous Is A Brown Recluse?

Brown Recluse venom contains a necro-toxin that causes tissue around the bite to die. If the necrosis is severe secondary infection may develop. If left untreated the necrotic infected tissue will destroy the surrounding healthy tissue and the infection will spread. In rare cases, widespread necrosis and infection have led to sepsis and death. Medical attention should be sought at the first sign of necrotic tissue or infection around a spider bite. It is not uncommon for a Brown Recluse bite to go unnoticed for 3 – 4 days and only draw the victim’s attention when the infection causes soreness and swelling.   

Both Black Widow and Brown Recluse are found outdoors more often than indoors. Though they are dangerous, neither one is aggressive towards humans or pets. Most bites occur when working in dark, basements, attics, garages, and barns where these two spiders make their homes. Taking proper precautions like wearing gloves and being mindful of spider hiding places can help keep you safe from accidental spider bites when working outdoors.   

Need spider treatment in the Memphis area?

If you are seeing either of these two dangerous spiders inside your home, then it is time to call in the professionals at Foundation Pest Control right away. Common house spiders that live in our walls and attics are rarely seen by the home’s occupants and they benefit us by keeping insects from making themselves at home.  Black Widows and Brown Recluse are too dangerous to allow inside where accidental interaction with your family or pets is far more likely. 

In the case of Brown Recluse specifically, do it yourself spider control methods are often ineffective. Brown Recluse are very difficult to eliminate from the home once they invite themselves in and make themselves at home. Their disproportionately long sturdy legs enable them to traverse safely over the spider spray that eliminates other spiders. Foundation Pest Control has the expertise to find the home invaders and make sure they are evicted completely. Give Foundation Pest Control a call at (901) 302-5206 and let us tell you how we can help you get dangerous pests out of your home and away from your family.