How can you get rid of brown recluse spiders? Arm yourself with your vacuum (to remove webs), DIY spider repellent (to kill them on contact), and sticky traps (to catch them over days in basements, attics and garages).
The brown recluse gets its name for this reason: This venomous spider likes to hide in dark areas of your home and yard. That poses some challenges in eradicating them. First, you have to make sure your pest is indeed a brown recluse.
How to identify brown recluse spiders
Brown recluse spiders are sometimes called a “fiddleback spider” due to their markings, but they come in a variety of shades, from dark brown to light. Loxosceles reclusa are usually about the size of a quarter.
Brown recluse spiders are found across much of the United States, from central Texas to western Georgia, and north toward Kentucky.
Most active at night, these spiders are nocturnal hunters and can survive for months without a food source.
Brown recluses prey upon nuisance insects, like flies and mosquitoes. These spiders bite as an act of defense and are very unlikely to harm humans unless they feel threatened.
Brown recluse spiders are often confused with wolf spiders. One is bigger, has eight eyes, and is hairier (the wolf spider); the other is smaller, has six eyes, fine hairs and is scarier (because of the brown recluse’s venom).
While bites are uncommon, brown recluse bites will turn red, and may cause pain and itching for several hours. Due to the breakdown of tissue, a brown recluse spider bite can lead to an open sore may develop in a week’s time.
If a brown recluse bites you or you think you might have been a victim of other spider bites, seek medical attention.
How to Kill Brown Recluse Spiders in Your House
Brown recluses can move into your home for warmth and stay for the food. Removing their webs (which trap their meals), is one way to send brown recluses looking for a new home. Several natural remedies and DIY methods, in addition to store-bought pesticides, will kill, trap or deter brown recluses, too.
Here is your attack plan for an in-home brown-recluse invasion:
Clean your home
The first step in spider control is cleaning. Suck up brown recluse webs and possibly egg sacs with a vacuum with a long-handled attachment. Where to look for webs: Focus on corners, baseboards, bed skirts, beneath furniture, cupboards, closets and above cabinets.
While cleaning, pay attention to small openings from the outside.
Spray homemade spider repellent
Dispatch brown recluses and other spiders on contact with a spray of vinegar. Vinegars, including apple cider vinegar, can kill brown recluse spiders on contact. The acidity is toxic. If you can corner the spider and spray liberally, it will die due to the acidity.
Add strong scents
Brown recluses, like most spiders, don’t like strong scents, such as eucalyptus. Placed on window sills or other potential points of entry, this will act as an air freshener while potentially deterring spiders.
Apply essential oils
Peppermint oil, lavender, and tea tree oil are also thought to be effective. You can easily make a DIY spray to apply to areas where you believe the spiders might be hanging out. Hedge apples also are known to repel brown recluse spiders as well.
Spread some diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth powder is a safe, chemical-free way to treat for spiders. A crushed sedimentary rock, diatomaceous earth can be purchased in food grade and then sprinkled on areas where spiders are living or gaining access. Diatomaceous earth works great in basements, attics, garages, tool sheds. Over time, spiders’ exoskeletons will degrade, leading to death.
Place some glue traps
Basements are a good place for glue traps. You can purchase these in multipacks from home supply stores and set them out where spiders are living or potentially gaining access. When set appropriately, sticky traps can snag dozens of brown recluses.
Try brown recluse insecticide
Insecticides labeled for brown recluses must come in direct contact with the spider to be effective. You either need to spray the spider directly, or hope that it walks on a surface still damp with the liquid. For these reasons, insecticides are not the most effective way to thin or erase your spider population.
How to get rid of brown recluse spiders outside
Spend some time cleaning up your garage and storage shed, getting rid of a favorite brown recluse hiding place, and add a few plants in key areas to keep spiders outside.
For example, organize storage areas and cover any containers to minimize your spider problem.
And the next time you have the hose out, spray the underside of patio furniture, where webs might be hiding.
Some areas merit special brown recluse spider attention and treatments:
In your garage
Clean your workspace, vacuum any webs, don’t leave tools or piles of at-home gym weights lying around, and seal any containers of screws or bolts (hiding places for spiders). Place spider traps near where you have seen or suspect black widows are hiding.
In your woodpile
Spray any brown recluses you see in spidey holes in your log pile, then remove your wood pile to eliminate one of a brown recluse’s favorite hiding places in your yard.
How to keep brown recluses outside your home
Seal any openings
Install door sweeps, screens, and apply weather-stripping to window and door casings. Caulk any cracks. Closing these crevices and wall voids will prevent brown recluses from entering your home.
Try strategic planting
As mentioned, brown recluses don’t like eucalyptus. They also tend to stay away from lemongrass, lavender, mint catnip, basil, lemon balm, and rosemary. Planting these near doorways and windows, as well as along points of egress, will also help keep spiders from entering your home, garage, shed and crawlspaces.
When to call a pest control expert
If you can’t get rid of brown recluses on your own or you are finding them in your basement, attic, and on the underside of furniture, pest control experts can solve your spider problem.
When you see one brown recluse… Brown recluses only mate once, but a female can produce eggs through the rest of her life, so it takes just one spider to have a brown recluse infestation. Laying 50 eggs at a time, several times a year, one female can cause a serious issue before you even realize it.
Pest control pros are armed with the experience and resources to dispatch your brown recluses. They know where to look, and have specialized tools that can reach places you would otherwise be unable to. Experts can also offer guidance on how to prevent future issues with these and other household pests.
Bottom line: Spiders — even the venomous ones — provide a lot of benefits to the ecosystem, but that doesn’t mean you want them hanging out in your house.