Brown Recluse Spiders in California: Dispelling the Myth

Brown recluse spider spreading its legs on a white background

Picture this: it’s a sunny California day, and you can’t resist the perfect opportunity to surf at the famous Huntington Beach Pier. You walk to the garage to grab your board, turn on the light, and—yikes! A family of brown spiders is hanging out in the dark corner near your boards, appearing threatened that you’re in their space. Immediately, you turn off the light and run inside to Google to see if brown recluse spiders are in California. You’re not risking a dangerous spider bite, even if that means missing out on the awesome swell that just came in.

However, what if we told you those critters in the garage aren’t the infamous brown recluse spiders? In this post, we’ll delve into the myth that brown recluse spiders inhabit California and share about the dangerous arachnids to look out for instead. By the end, you’ll be an expert at identifying the spiders invading your space, and we’ll give you valuable tips to keep them at bay!

Are There Brown Recluse Spiders in California? The Answer May Surprise You

Do you ever fear that a dangerous brown recluse is lurking in your California home? We’re here to tell you that, despite popular belief, brown recluse spiders are not found in California, even in Southern California. Although brown recluse spiders prefer warmer climates like SoCal’s year-round sunshine and desert-like landscape, these pests won’t be spotted anywhere in this seaside state. Brown recluse spiders usually stick to non-coastal regions and Southwestern desert areas. Brown recluse spiders are commonly found in the following states:

  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • Kansas

Are you feeling relieved? Unfortunately, there are other dangerous spiders in California you need to watch for. While brown recluse spiders stay away, California’s sunshine and dry weather are irresistible for other creepy crawlers. Specifically, you’ll need to keep an eye out for a spider that’s often mistaken for the brown recluse: a desert recluse.

Brown Recluse Look Alike in California: The Desert Recluse

Although the brown and desert recluse belong to the same spider family, Loxosceles, these critters inhabit different parts of the United States. While brown recluses live in the Midwest and southern states, desert recluse spiders are common in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico.

Below, we’ll discuss the similarities and differences between these two types of spiders. Let’s dive in!


Both the brown and desert recluse are very similar in physical appearance. The noticeable difference between these two is that the markings on the brown recluse are often significantly darker than those on a desert recluse.

The brown and desert recluse spiders’ physical characteristics are the following:

  • Light tan, yellowish-brown, or dark brown coloring
  • ⅜ of an inch in body length
  • Dark brown violin-shaped marking on the top of their cephalothorax (desert recluse spiders don’t always possess this marking, but if so, it will be much lighter)
  • Oval abdomen
  • Six eyes in three equal pairs


These spiders are reclusive in nature, hiding from potential predators and sticking to themselves. Brown and desert recluse spiders are nocturnal, hunting at night and staying in dark, hidden spaces during the day. Outdoors, these critters make a home in crevices under rocks or underneath the bark of dead trees. If they make it indoors, they find an isolated area such as a closet or inside a shoe.

Venom and Bite Stages

The brown and desert recluse spiders produce a venom known as sphingomyelinase D, which they inject into their predators or possible threats through a bite. When a recluse spider bites humans, it can cause skin deterioration and surrounding tissue, known as a process called “loxoscelism.” The bite stages of brown and desert recluse spiders are the same:

  • Hours After a Bite: The affected area becomes red and sensitive to touch, featuring a burning sensation. The bite site can change color or bruise with a blueish hue.
  • 3-5 Days After a Bite: The pain will subside if the spider injects a smaller amount of venom. However, if the venom spreads further than the bite site, discomfort can continue for numerous days, and an ulcer will appear on the affected area.
  • 7-14 Days Following a Bite: In rare cases, the skin around the ulcer will start to break down and form a wound that could take an extended time to heal.
  • 3 Weeks After a Bite: Most bites heal fully after 3 weeks or sooner, and a thick scab will cover the wound.

While reading these bite stages can start to make your skin crawl, there’s no need to gain a phobia of spiders since recluse spiders often hide out and aren’t known to be overtly aggressive. The chance of being bitten by a brown or desert recluse spider is slim.

Watch Out For These 2 Dangerous Spiders in California

Desert recluse spiders aren’t the only type of critter commonly mistaken for a brown recluse spider in California. Here are 2 other venomous spiders that you may think are brown recluses at first glance:

1. Brown Widow Spider

Brown widow spiders are found in California, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and other warm states. Here are the basic facts about brown widow spiders:

  • Appearance: A mature female is 1-1 ½ inches long and is typically twice the size of the male. A female’s coloring ranges from light tan to dark brown, including black accent markings. The mature brown widow female has a red-orange hourglass shape on their belly and is often confused with an immature female black widow; the main difference is the stripe that runs along the abdomen of both spiders. For the immature black widow, the orange stripe trails almost up the entire abdomen. However, the mature brown widow’s stripe is brown and only extends halfway up the abdomen. Another way to differentiate the two is to pay attention to the spiders’ egg sacs. Brown widow egg sacs look like tan, spiky balls, while black widows’ sacs are white, smooth spheres.
  • Habitat: Brown widows are found in secluded vegetation and branches outside crowded areas. These critters enjoy dark places like garages, woodpiles, patio furniture, attics, and more. Brown widows are often found in more exposed areas than black widow spiders.
  • Venom: Brown widows have neurotoxic venom that affects nerve-muscle tissue functioning, causing Latrodectism. Symptoms of Latrodectism can include muscle rigidity, vomiting, sweating, pain, and more. Fortunately, brown spiders don’t have the strength to cause Latrodectism in a majority of human bite victims. Locating a red mark from the spider’s bite is normal, but it will naturally heal without medical attention.

2. Black Widow Spider

Black widow spiders are perhaps the most famous spider species in North America. Known for their red hourglass, black widows primarily live in the south and west; however, species have been found in all 50 states. Here’s what you need to know about black widows:

  • Appearance: Mature female black widows measure 1-1 ½ inches, with shiny black coloring and a distinct red hourglass shape on their abdomen. On the other hand, immature female and male black widows are significantly smaller in size, with tan shading, brown-banded legs, and a white abdomen.
  • Habitat: Black widows usually live in woodpiles and underneath tree bark. These spiders enjoy dark and dry environments, making their way into boxes, basements, barns, garages, blankets, and other dark crevices.
  • Venom: Bites from female black widows are rare. However, if they do bite, it can have serious consequences. With more powerful biting muscles, these critters deliver a hefty dose of neurotoxin into their prey and potential threat. Black widows’ bites don’t cause skin to deteriorate, but it does come with nasty symptoms. This spider’s bite will appear as tiny red marks and often feel painless to humans. However, the aftereffects of a black widow bite include the following: excess sweating, rigid stomach muscles, urine retention, regional or radiating pain, numbness, fever, and agitation. Most black widow bites result in flu-like symptoms that only last a few days. If a black widow has bitten you, seeking medical help is essential.

How to Get Rid of California Spiders

The best way to get rid of spiders in your California property is to prevent them from ever coming in the first place. Here are a few tips to follow if you’d like to avoid sharing your space with one of the creepy crawlers mentioned above:

  • Maintain a clean space. Spiders make their homes in dirty spaces, whether that’s a dusty basement or cluttered kitchen cabinets. Make vacuuming a routine task on your cleaning list, ensuring you target corners and hard-to-reach areas. Remove clutter from cabinets, garages, attics, and closets, preventing spiders from building a home in a hidden space.
  • Cut off their food supply. Spiders don’t like human food but enjoy a delicious assortment of insects. If you’d like to prevent spiders, it’s time to cut off their food source. Keep your doors and windows closed or securely fit with screens, preventing flies and other pests from entering your property. Sanitize surfaces often and ensure food is tucked away or protected in airtight containers. These practices will eliminate not only bug problems but also dangerous spider infestations.
  • Declutter outdoor areas. Don’t think you’re safe if the inside of your property is spider-proofed. If these critters find a haven outside your home or business, they can easily go indoors in due time. Clear out wood, compost piles, and rocks from your yard, and wash window shutters or the siding of your buildings regularly. If you have a garden, spiders are great protectors of your plants, eating any harmful pests that try to devour your new petunias.
  • Replace the lighting used at your property. Bugs flock to light, and spiders follow bugs, so if you’d like to prevent black widows or desert recluses from entering your home, it’s time to rethink how you light your property. Replace the lighting in your home with sodium vapor lights or yellow lights. These aren’t as attractive to bugs, so they’ll likely enter another house. Set the light source away from doors and windows if you need outdoor lighting. That way, if bugs do come, they’ll stay out of your home, as will the spiders.

If you’ve taken preventative measures and it isn’t enough, it’s time to call the professionals and eliminate spiders from your property for good.

Preventive Pest Control Will Clear Out Spiders from Your California Property

Are you tired of losing sleep over the fear of having a spider bite you in bed? Preventive Pest Control in Southern California is the team to call if you want to live in peace again and experience a spider-free environment. Our experts safeguard homes and commercial businesses in Orange County and the Inland Empire from various California spiders and other pests year-round.

Contact Preventive’s team to remove pests from your property and prevent them from returning. We’re here to do the dirty work for you while you enjoy the benefits of a pest-free space.