Brown Recluse vs House Spider: Six Major Differences

When talking about spiders, the Brown Recluse Spider and the House Spider are widely known names. They are common faces in populated areas, one more than the other, and are feared for being venomous. These two species of spiders also have similarities in their appearances, which makes people often mistake the house spider for the brown recluse spider.

Though they look similar, there are plenty of differences between them that separate them from each other. For once, the brown recluse spider is shy and solitary, while the house spiders prefer to dwell near humans. This article talks about the six significant differences between the brown recluse spider and the house spider.

The six differences include their sizes, locations, habitats, appearances, lifespan and reproduction, behavior, and venom levels. So, let’s take a look at the comparison between brown recluse vs. house spider.

Comparing Brown Recluse vs. House Spider

Brown Recluse vs House Spider
Brown Recluse vs House Spider
Characteristics Brown Recluse Spider House Spider
Size 0.24 – 0.79 inches Female: 0.2 – 0.24 inches

Male: 0.15 – 0.19 inches

Location & Habitat Southern and midwestern United States

Prefers undisturbed areas in populated locales

All around the world

Prefers to stay near human-populated areas

Appearance Body color light to medium brown, legs lacking spines and a violin pattern on the dorsal side. Body lower tan to black and patterned with different shades, female abdomens are more bulbous than males.
Lifespan & Reproduction 1 – 3 years

In summer, the female spider lays eggs in several egg sacs, which contain 40 – 50 eggs each.

1.5 – 2.5 years

Female spider lays eggs during summer in egg sacs, which contain 150 – 200 eggs each.

Behavior Solitary and reclusive; doesn’t bite easily, only when surprised and trapped. Quick and non-aggressive; doesn’t bite and retreats when confronted.
Venom Level Extremely venomous Mildly venomous

Key Differences between Brown Recluse vs House Spider

Brown Recluse Spider
Brown Recluse Spiders are slightly bigger than House Spiders

As we see in the table above, there are some other similarities between the brown recluse spider and the house spider apart from appearances. They are both venomous and don’t like to attack humans. The spiders also like to stay in populated human locales. But despite the similarities, they are plenty different from each other. And we’ll discuss these differences in detail further in the article.

Brown Recluse Spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) is a species of spiders that are shy and reclusive, and very venomous. Their venom is not only dangerous but also has significant uses in medicine. Some of their nicknames include Fiddleback Spider, Brown Fiddler, and Violin Spider.

The House Spider, more popularly known as the Common House Spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum), is the most commonly found spider inside houses. They are spread globally and always inhabit places near humans. They are often confused with the Wolf Spider and the Brown Recluse Spider. Another popular nickname for them is American House Spider.

Now that the two sides are introduced let’s find out the six major differences between brown recluse vs house spider.

Brown Recluse vs House Spider: Size

The brown recluse spider and the house spider have slight differences in size. The size of the brown recluse spiders typically ranges from 0.24 – 0.79 inches (6 – 20 millimeters) as adults, but some can grow beyond that. They are, in general, bigger in size than house spiders.

In the case of the house spiders, the females are larger than the males. A mature female house spider is somewhere around 0.2 – 0.24 inches (5 – 6 millimeters). At the same time, the size of a mature male falls within 0.15 – 0.19 inches (3.8 – 4.7 millimeters). Their size with their legs outspread is around 1 inch (2.5 centimeters).

Brown Recluse vs House Spider: Location and Habitat

Both brown recluse spiders and house spiders are common in the world, though the geographical distribution of the house spiders is more widespread than the brown recluse spiders.

The nickname of the house spider might be the American house spider, but it’s the brown recluse spider that primarily lives in the United States.

The brown spiders are found in Midwestern America, particularly Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, and Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky in South-central and Southeastern America. The house spider, however, has more global circulation and can be found all over the world.

As for preferred habitats, the brown recluse spider and house spider both like to live close to humans. Brown recluses find shelter in secluded areas of human locales, like in storages, garages, closets, and sheds. They prefer dry and empty areas and build their home with disorderly woven webs.

Brown recluses can also be found in nature. In the wilderness, they live inside the rotting barks of trees. That particular habitat is apparently very preferable to them since they also like to take shelter in cardboard boxes, the texture of which resembles the rotting tree barks. 

The house spider, as is evident by their name, lives close to the human population. They prefer to live indoors, in damp spaces like basements and crawl spaces. They weave a lot of webs since they frequently leave the older web to live on the new one.

Brown Recluse vs House Spider: Appearance

Brown Recluse
Brown Recluse Spiders have six eyes

Brown recluse spiders usually have light brown colored bodies, but the color can be shades closer to white or gray, or dark brown

Some of their popular nicknames, like the violin spider and fiddle back spider, come from the violin-shaped pattern on their cephalothorax. 

The pattern might attract attention, but it is not a distinctive feature of the species. Other spiders, like the Cellar Spiders and the Pirate Spiders, also have similar patterns.

The most distinctive feature of the brown recluses is their eyes. The brown recluses have six eyes, divided into three pairs, instead of the eight eyes most spiders have. Among the three pairs of their eyes, one pair is a median dyad, and the other two pairs are lateral dyads.

The legs of the brown recluses don’t have spines. Their cephalothorax and abdomen also lack any spot or marking on the ventral side.

The house spiders are smaller than brown recluses and have body colors varying between brown, tan, and gray. These colorations help them in blending into the background, which helps them potentially escape from threats.

There are different patterns on their abdomen, noticeably V-shaped, with shades of colors. A few house spiders in South America can also be seen with black triangular patterns on their dorsal abdomen. Female house spiders also have more bulbous abdomens than males.

Brown Recluse vs House Spider: Lifespan and Reproduction

The lifespans of the brown recluse spider and the house spider are comparable, though the house spiders live slightly longer than the brown recluses. A brown recluse spider lives for 1 – 2 years, while the common lifespan for the house spider is 1.5 – 2.5 years.

As for their reproductive cycle, both these spiders lay eggs in summer. The female brown recluse spiders lay eggs via egg sacs. 

They produce several egg sacs for the duration of two to three months, from May to July. The egg sacs contain 40 – 50 eggs each. The eggs hatch in the span of one month, revealing spiderlings that mature in about a year.

House spiders also lay eggs via egg sacs. The females of the species produce a number of egg sacs that they suspend in their webs. The egg sacs are spherical in shape and have tan outer layers with a paperlike texture. Every female produces around 15 – 20 egg sacs in its lifetime. 

Each egg sac of the house spider contains around 150 – 200 eggs. After hatching, the spiderlings stay close to their mother for some time within the web.

Brown Recluse vs House Spider: Behavior

While brown recluse and house spider both prefer to stay near human dwellings, their behaviors vary vastly. The brown recluses are very shy and avoid interaction of any kind as much as possible.

They often pretend to be dead to get away from a situation. When facing a threat, they prefer to back out instead of lashing out. But they will bite if they are surprised or trappedBrown recluse spiders are also tenacious. They can live for almost six months without food.

In dire times, these spiders also perform autotomy, where they sever their own limbs to escape from their predators’ hold or venom. Unlike some spiders, their severed body parts do not regenerate later.

House spiders have a much better relationship with humans. They do not shy away from human contact and even let humans close their webs. But that isn’t to say that they are harmless.

While they are not aggressive and don’t tend to attack, they will bite if they feel threatened, for example, trapped or squeezed. 

House spiders also have contrasting personalities with the brown recluse in regard to relationships within their own species. 

Male and female house spiders spend long times together on the same web. Female spiders also tend to stay close and webs near each other, though they might also fight sometimes.

House spiders can’t see very well and can only detect movements within a three to 4 inches radius. Similar to brown recluses, house spiders also sometimes feign death to avoid attacks.

Brown Recluse vs House Spider: Venom Level

Brown recluses are notorious for the toxicity of their venom, which contains Sphingomyelinase D toxin. Their venom causes dermonecrotic loxosceles, where the bitten area becomes a muddy color with shallow wounds opening in it and the cells near the spot dying.

Though loxosceles is an extreme condition and doesn’t happen often, and the bite produces milder symptoms, the brown recluses are still very dangerous.

Some of the rarer but more lethal effects of the venom of brown recluses include haemolysis and cutaneous and viscerocutaneous symptoms.

Not everything is terrible about the brown recluse’s venom. The venom is also used widely for medicine, which makes the brown recluse one of three medically significant spiders in North America, including the Black Widow and Chilean Recluse Spider.

The venom of house spiders is less dangerous. The venom contains neurotoxins, but those are mild enough that they are believed not to be very dangerous to humans.

Both spiders have some similarities and some dissimilarities. The house spider is more human-friendly than brown recluses and less threatening, but it’s still better to handle them with caution.

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AZ Animals, Wikipedia, The National Wildlife Federation, Ortho

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