Brown Recluse Look Alikes – What to Look For

Spotting an unidentified spider in your home can be scary. However, brown recluse spiders, which are commonly feared in the U.S., are actually quite rare. It is most likely a look-alike spider that you are seeing!

To protect yourself and your home, it is important to understand non-venomous spiders often mistaken for brown recluse spiders. Knowing their features and how to identify them will help protect you from a potential venomous spider infestation.

This guide will discuss features like

  • body shape,
  • leg count,
  • size,
  • and color variations

It will also provide details of specific types of spiders similar to brown recluses. Additionally, tips on what homeowners should do if they find one of these spiders in their homes will be suggested. Let’s start!

Common Brown Recluse Look-Alikes

Brown recluses? Yikes! It’s tough to tell these dangerous arachnids apart from their harmless look-alikes. So, stay safe! Recognize the brown recluse and its imitators.

Here are some of the most common doppelgängers:

Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders and brown recluses may look alike in color and body shape. But you can tell them apart by their eyes: wolf spiders have two big ones, followed by four smaller ones. Brown recluses have three small eyes, all in a line.

Wolf spiders are often bigger, but this can vary depending on the subspecies. Wolf spiders don’t build webs. They hunt by searching for food. This makes them quick and hard to spot. You can find them outdoors at the base of wood piles. Or indoors, where they hide during the day and hunt during the night.

The markings on adult wolf spiders can be white/grey stripes, orange sides, or nothing. The brown bodies are usually between 1/2 inch and 2 inches long. But there are other spiders that look like wolf spiders. These include:

  • Cellar spiders
  • House spiders
  • Fishing spiders
  • Huntsman spiders
  • Crab spiders
  • Daddy long legs.

Cellar Spiders

Cellar spiders are common arachnids. They have thin, yellowish-grey or brown legs and a grey body. They can be mistaken for brown recluses due to size and color. But, cellar spiders build an irregular web with many different sizes, unlike the organized cobweb of the brown recluse.

Cellar spiders don’t bite people or attack humans or pets, unless excessively disturbed. To differentiate them from brown recluses, look at the eyes. Brown recluses have six eyes arranged in three pairs, while cellar spiders have eight eyes arranged in two rows of four. Knowing these differences will help you identify them safely.

Jumping Spiders

Jumping spiders are a group of over 6,500 species. They rarely bite people, yet are often mistaken for brown recluse spiders due to their similar size and hue.

These spiders have long legs that project out from an extended body. They can jump far distances. Additionally, they have eye clusters on their heads and a large cephalothorax with depressions behind the fangs.

The abdomen is rounder than the brown recluse’s, with two rows of whitish-gray markings on the back. The front two legs are also longer than the rest.

To identify them, look for a distinct black stripe running from the head to the abdomen on the cephalothorax area. This can help tell the difference between jumping spider species and the brown recluse spider. Jumping spiders will also act differently than the brown recluse when disturbed or threatened, making it easy to identify them.

Fishing Spiders

Fishing spiders are often mistaken for brown recluses. These large, bitey spiders dwell in wetlands and areas with lots of water. They eat mostly bugs, but can bite if threatened.

Similar to brown recluses, fishing spiders have similar coloring and a violin-shaped marking on their back. They are covered in fur, and range in size from half an inch to three inches wide. They may be light brown, reddish-brown, or even gray. The main difference is that fishing spiders don’t have the six eyes that Recluses have.

It is important to know which spider you are dealing with. If it could be a Brown Recluse, contact your local pest control company before taking any action. These spiders can cause serious health issues or even death if their venom enters the bloodstream.

House Spiders

Brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) are notorious house pests. It can be hard to identify them from lookalikes. Read on to learn about common spiders mistaken for brown recluses.

House spiders are all over the world. They have an elongated body, light to dark brown in color, with dark markings on the legs and abdomen. They measure 1⁄4-3⁄4 inch long and have three or more silk-spinning organs on the abdomen. Examples of common house spider species are:

  • American House Spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum)
  • European House Spider (Tegenaria domestica)
  • Common Hobo Spider (Eratigena agrestis)

Jumping spiders have four pairs of eyes. They range from black to tan with bands or stripes running across the legs, head, and/or body. They measure 1⁄4-3⁄4 inch long and often seem to hop rather than walk. Some common jumping spider species are:

  • Zebra Jumping Spider (Salticus scenicus)
  • Hacklemesh Weaver Spider (Ummidia sp.)
  • Phidippus audax Spider (Phidippus audax)

Wolf spiders are abundant house spiders. They live outdoors near houses but can invade homes in cooler months for food or shelter. Wolf spiders are large hunters with good vision and can reach between 1⁄2 – 2 inches in length. Species often mistaken for brown recluses include:

  • Hogna spp. Wolf Spiders
  • Carolina Wolf Spiders (Hogna carolinensis)

Identifying Brown Recluse Spiders

Brown recluse spiders can be hard to identify. They look like other species. So, it is best to know what they look like and where they live. That way, you can spot them and stay safe. Familiarity with their features and habitats makes it easy to identify them correctly.

Here are some of the key features and habitats of brown recluse spiders:

  • Distinctive dark brown violin shape on its back
  • Six eyes instead of eight, arranged in three pairs
  • Light to dark brown in color
  • Found in dark, dry places, such as closets, attics, basements, and woodpiles


Brown recluse spiders have a unique color – ranging from tan to dark brown. They have a dark violin shape on the top of their body. Legs are usually 15 mm when stretched out, and can vary in color. Young spiders may look like other common house spiders. Wolf and crab spiders may cause confusion too. Brown recluses have small spines or hairs on their legs which can be seen through magnification.

They’re usually active in summer when it’s warm, preferring dry and undisturbed places. These include wood piles, basements, crawlspaces, and garages. They’re found in Midwestern states like Texas, Mississippi, Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. They’ve been seen migrating to California and Arizona in hot, dry seasons. So these areas should be examined for signs of this species.


Brown recluse spiders are small, usually about ¼ of an inch. This size can be misleading, since harmless spiders may be the same. It’s best to be cautious when dealing with any spider. Spotting physical characteristics can be more reliable.

Brown recluses have six eyes arranged diagonally in a semi-circle. You can also look for violin markings and long spindly legs with no spine or visible joints. Not all brown recluses spin webs, but if they do, these webs will be loose and resemble cobwebs.


Brown recluse spiders have 8 legs. All hairs are short and fine. The legs are a light tan or yellowish color. The first pair of legs is longer than the second pair. After that, each leg gets progressively shorter. Look closely—these spiders may raise certain legs to look like they are longer.


A brown recluse spider has certain markings and color. Light to medium brown in hue, it has a distinct dark-brown violin pattern on its back. This pattern runs from the abdomen to the thorax. Near the head, you might find short, forward-pointing hairs. Its body is longer than wide, creating a flattened oval shape. Without legs, it is 0.25 inches long. Each leg adds 2-3 inches.

Brown recluse spiders make webs that are no more than 1/4 inch wide. A larger web isn’t made by this arachnid.


Brown recluses can be hard to spot. So, it’s important to know these unique traits:

  • Brown spiders with a semicircle of six eyes
  • ¼-½ inch in length
  • A violin-shaped mark on the head
  • Grayish-brown bristles
  • Long, thin legs (front legs are longest).

Not all spiders with these features are brown recluse. Other spiders that look similar are wolf spiders, daddy longlegs, house spiders, cellar spiders, and hobo spiders. If you’re unsure, contact an entomologist or arachnologist for help.