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7 Spiders That Look Like a Brown Recluse

The brown recluse is widely feared as one of the deadliest spiders in the world. It’s bite can be fatal, and if not fatal is still quite painful. Victims often require hospitalization. Because of the danger they pose, other spiders are sometimes misidentified as brown recluses. So in this article we’re going to learn about some spiders that look like a brown recluse, or are often mistaken for them.

Many of the species that people think are brown recluses are just scary-looking, so people assume they’re highly dangerous. Others look very much like the brown recluse, but most of them are perfectly harmless. Here are some of the species most often mistaken for a brown recluse.

Brown recluse on a rock
Brown recluse on a rock | image by Johnny BlueJacket via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Spiders that look like a brown recluse

1. Huntsman Spider

A huntsman spider
A huntsman spider | Image by xandernikola79 from Pixabay

Huntsman spiders are a group of spiders that can be found all over the world, from the Americas to Africa, Asia, and, famously, Australia. Australian huntsman spiders are infamous both for their shocking size and their large numbers.

In the US, most huntsman spiders are more reasonably sized. You’ll find them in much of the continental US, but they’re most common around the Gulf Coast and especially in Florida.

These spiders don’t spin webs, they chase their prey down on foot. That makes them fast; they’re big, too. Many species measure over 5 inches from leg tip to leg tip.

Their large size and speed are actually good indications that these are not Brown Recluse spiders, which never get bigger than a quarter. Still, males, which are smaller and much more slender than females, often get mistaken for Brown Recluses because of their brown coloration.

2. Wolf Spider

A wolf spider
A wolf spider | Image by lolaclinton from Pixabay

Wolf spiders are very similar to huntsman spiders, but are usually smaller and have a different build. In the US, these spiders may be mistaken for brown recluses more than any other. They’re almost all grayish tan or brown in color, many of them are small, and they often have brown markings on their backs that can easily be mistaken for the infamous violin mark.

Wolf spiders are still quite a bit bigger than Brown Recluses. And, while they do have brown markings down their back, Wolf spiders have simple stripes while Brown Recluses have a distinctive violin shape. Wolf spiders are also noticeably hairy, fuzzy, even, while brown recluses appear smooth and hairless.

Wolf spiders have a very mild venom and are not very aggressive. They’ll typically freeze if they know you’ve spotted them, but they might also try to run. Because of their speed, their running often scares people.

3. Hobo Spider

Hobo spider
Hobo spider | image by Géry Parent via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

A type of funnel-web spider, Hobo spiders are a common species in much of the United States. They look a lot like the brown recluse, and they can be very aggressive. They’ll rarely bite though, and when they do their venom is fairly mild.

They typically have yellow markings on their brown bodies, rather than the brown-on-brown colors of the brown recluse. They also build funnel shaped webs, which are distinctive.

4. Common House Spider

Common house spider
Common house spider | image by Christoph Zurnieden via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

These little spiders are probably tied with wolf spiders for the title of “most commonly mistaken for a brown recluse.” Common house spiders are mistaken for the brown recluse because they’re small and often brown in color.

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In all likelihood, you’ve got far more of these spiders in your house than you realize. They’re small and inconspicuous. However, they also tend to build their webs in easily visible areas like window sills. This is one easy way to distinguish them from the brown recluse- brown recluses are named for their preference to live out of sight. If you’re finding spiders in your living room, it’s a house spider.

If the spiderwebs are on window sills, under furniture, and in corners, they’re house spiders. Interestingly, these spiders are also frequently misidentified as black widows because they build similar webs and have almost identical body shapes.

5. Orb Weavers

An orb-weaver spider
An orb-weaver spider by Brett Hondow from Pixabay

Orb weavers are a very large and diverse family of spiders that produce what we think of as the stereotypical spiderweb (think “Charlotte’s web”). While some of these spiders are massive, brightly colored spiders that no one could ever mistake for a brown recluse, many of them, such as the Furrow spider, are quite similar. They’re small, brown, hairless spiders with brown patterns on their back.

Those patterns, however, are the key to properly identifying them. Some are striped, some are mottled, but none have the uniform brown color and brown violin mark that characterizes a brown recluse.

6. Cellar Spiders

Cellar spider
A cellar spider | Image by Eliza from Pixabay

Cellar spiders can sometimes be hard to distinguish from the brown recluse, but upon closer inspection they look quite different. They’re very small, often pale brown color with brown markings on their back that are very similar to the brown recluse. They’re usually more slender and paler in color than the brown recluse, but there’s another good way to distinguish between them.

The brown recluse has only six eyes, and they’re positioned in three pairs. Cellar spiders will have eight eyes, like most spiders. This is a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with a cellar spider, which is harmless, and not a dangerous brown recluse. Cellar spiders are also commonly known as daddy longlegs.

7. Spitting Spiders

A spitting spider
A spitting spider | source: Rob Mitchell

Spitting spiders are named for their unique hunting method. They spit a sticky fluid at their prey- once it hits them, it congeals and traps them. Spitting spiders are mistaken for brown recluse spiders because they share a unique feature: six eyes.

Like the brown recluse, many spitting spiders have six eyes, positioned in three pairs. Still, there’s an easy way to distinguish between them: no spitting spider has the dark brown violin mark on it’s head.

How to Identify a Brown Recluse

The brown recluse is actually a fairly easy spider to identify. They’re small, almost never exceeding about .8 inches. A big one is about the same size as a quarter. This is one of the most important identifiers for these spiders, since most of the other spiders people mistake for the brown recluse are much bigger.

As the name suggests, the brown recluse is brown. Light to medium brown is most common, but they can range from nearly gray to dark brown.

They have a distinctive stripe on their cephalothorax (head) that’s shaped like a violin, with the neck of the violin pointing towards their abdomen.

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They are a uniform color, the cephalothorax and abdomen may be slightly different shades, but aside from the violin mark those two body parts are uniform. No strips, no spots, no rings of color on the legs. They also appear hairless.

Finally, unlike most spiders, they have only six eyes. Typically, a spider has eight eyes, arranged in two rows of four. Brown recluses have six eyes arranged in three pairs; one pair in the center, facing forward, and one pair on either side.