Brown Recluse vs House Spider: What’s the Difference?

Are you curious what the difference is between brown recluse and house spiders? You’re not alone! They look alike and both like dark places, like attics or basements. Knowing the difference can help with identification and safety. This guide explains the two types of spiders.

  • Brown Recluse: These spiders belong to the genus Loxosceles. They grow from 1/4 – 3/4 inches long and have a violin-shaped marking on their head. Colors vary from light yellow to light brown or grayish. They only have 6 eyes and have venomous fangs to inject neurotoxic venom.
  • House Spider: These come from the Araneidae family. They’re common in human structures because they feed on pest insects entering homes. Colors range from browns, grays or yellowish hues, with bands or large spots. They are 1/4 inch long but appear larger due to their long legs and web-spinning abilities. Their webs are bigger than other species.


Physical Differences

Brown Recluse and House spiders can look alike. But they are two different species. Let’s explore the physical distinctions between them.

  • Brown Recluse has a dark coloring. It also has a violin-shaped mark on its back.
  • House spiders have a lighter color. Additionally, they have distinct stripes on their abdomen.

Read Also: Wolf Spiders vs. Brown Recluse Spiders: What’s the Difference


Size and Color

Brown recluse spiders and house spiders are similar in size and color. Brown recluse are usually 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch long. Their color can range from tan to dark brown, with a “fiddle-shaped” marking on their back. House spiders’ colors vary from light yellowish-brown to dark brown, depending on the species.

Brown recluse have flattened legs, about 1/2 to 2/3 of an inch long. House spider legs are much longer, up to 2 inches in circumference. The shape and appearance of the legs can help distinguish between these two. Brown recluse usually have thin leg segments that get thinner towards their front feet. House spiders have thicker leg segments, and their front feet are more rounded.


Leg Count

Brown recluse spiders and house spiders are quite different when it comes to their legs. Both have eight legs, but brown recluses have the same length legs. House spiders, on the other hand, can be identified by two longer “rear” legs and two shorter “front” legs.

When looking at juvenile spiderlings of either species, they all have 6-7mm legspans. Plus, house spiders usually have visible leg banding, which brown recluses don’t have.

The way the legs are arranged and their number are the main physical differences between these two arachnids.


Spider Shape

Brown recluse and house spiders can be hard to tell apart. They are a similar shape, with long legs and small heads and equal-sized abdomens. Brown recluse spiders are usually tan to dark brown and don’t have any markings on their head capsule. House spiders come in various shades of beige to dark brown, with faint stripes on their back.

The easiest way to tell them apart is their eyes. Brown recluse spiders have three sets of two eyes in a semicircle shape, creating an ‘h’ shape from above. House spiders have four sets of two eyes, lined up vertically. Plus, four smaller eyes near the bottom of their head. So, although they look alike and prefer the same habitat, you can use their eyes to tell them apart.



Spider-spotting? Note the place! Brown Recluse spiders prefer warm, dry climates, while House Spiders favor wetter ones. Their habitats can help you tell them apart. Let’s study them further.


Brown Recluse

The Brown Recluse spider is a highly venomous species found in the US. It’s usually light brown with a violin-shaped marking on its back. The body is no bigger than one-quarter of an inch. It prefers warm and dry places, like attics, basements, or dark corners of barns or garages.

Brown Recluses are not aggressive. But, if cornered or startled, they will defend themselves. A bite from a brown recluse can cause severe pain and swelling. Serious complications can arise, so medical attention should be sought out immediately. Not all bites from brown recluses have venom. Some may be dry bites that don’t cause any medical issues.


House Spider

House spiders, also known as Achaearanea tepidariorum, are common inside American homes. They can move quickly, but may stay still if threatened.

They have yellow and brown stripes on their cephalothorax, and their abdomens are light yellow to dark brown. House spiders are usually 1/4-inch long, up to 5/16 of an inch.

They create webs as lairs to catch prey. The webs have funnels which help keep victims from escaping and catch windblown insects. The webs are usually built in corners or near entryways. House spiders like dark, undisturbed areas such as under furniture and appliances, or in attics and basements.



The Brown Recluse and house spiders have varying behaviors. Brown Recluses are loners. They live in dark, dry places such as woodpiles and sheds and hunt for food. House spiders, however, are very social. They live in colonies and eat insects that have already died.

Let’s take a closer look at the behavior of both spiders:


Brown Recluse

The brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) is a type of willful recluse spider. It can be found nearly everywhere in the US, except for Alaska, Maine and Hawaii. They are light to dark brown, and measure around 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch long. They have long, thin legs with no pattern or stripes.

Brown recluses prefer to live outside. They like dry, undisturbed places such as barns, sheds and rarely used garages. They will enter homes if they find a warm, secluded spot.

A unique feature of the brown recluse is its venomous bite. When threatened, it injects venom into its victims. This can cause pain, redness, blistering and swelling. If left untreated, most bites heal in three months. But some may leave a scar. Serious cases need medical attention. So it’s important to be able to recognize this spider!


House Spider

House spiders, otherwise known as Tegenaria domestica, are found in the US and Europe. They live near homes and structures where bugs are present. Contrary to popular belief, they are harmless to people. In fact, they act as helpful predators by eating moths, mosquitoes, flies, crickets, and cockroaches.

These spiders measure up to 1/4 inch and have long legs that may be patterned with spots or stripes. They make retreats in insulation boards, under bark, behind shutters, and in small crevices around window frames. Although their cephalothorax (front part of their body) may have darker marks like brown recluses, house spiders don’t have the violin pattern seen on some recluse species. Additionally, they have two large eyes instead of three medium-sized eyes seen on brown recluses.


Bite Differences

The brown recluse spider’s bite is much more dangerous than that of a house spider. Its venom can cause necrosis, or tissue death. It can even have severe systemic effects. Whereas, the bite of a house spider is harmless. It just causes minor skin irritation.

Let us contrast these two types of spider bites:

  • Brown Recluse Spider – Venom can cause necrosis and severe systemic effects.
  • House Spider – Bite is harmless and causes minor skin irritation.


Brown Recluse

The Brown Recluse is one of the most notable spiders in the United States. It’s part of the “recluse spiders” family which consists of over 100 species. It was first identified in the late 1890s and can be found in the central and southwestern United States.

Brown Recluse spiders are tan to dark brown in colour with an “f” shape black line from its cephalothorax to abdomen. They range from 6-20 millimeters in length with long legs.

They don’t spin webs or hunt. Instead, they hide in dark places like under rocks, stumps or logs during the day. At night, they wander around and feed on arthropods such as flies or mosquitoes.

These spiders are venomous. But, usually, one bite doesn’t cause serious medical issues. However, if bitten several times, seek medical attention. Also, be aware that other biting insects like mosquitoes can cause similar symptoms but look different from a spider bite.


House Spider

House spiders, also known as Parasteatoda tepidariorum, are often spotted in homes. They come in light brown, black or gray shades. Plus, they have a distinct violin-shaped marking on the thorax! These spiders spin webs to catch their prey. They prefer areas with high humidity, like bathrooms and basements. Generally, their bite is harmless. But, it can cause swelling, redness, and itching. If a person is sensitive, medical attention might be needed.

House spiders mainly dine on insects. Flies, mosquitoes, moths, silverfish, and other spiders are some of their favourites. Don’t worry though, these spiders only enter your home in search of food or shelter. Unless provoked, they pose no danger to humans.



Preventing brown recluse and house spiders is quite similar. The most important step is to keep your house or yard tidy and free from clutter. Move wood piles away from your home. Winterize any windows, screens and doors. Use caulk to fill any gaps and repair window screens that have been damaged. Inspect second-hand furniture before you bring it inside, as this can provide hiding spots for pests.

No method offers 100% protection. But, following some basic pest control tips will help reduce spider populations and lower the risk of a bite:

  • Move wood piles away from your home.
  • Winterize any windows, screens and doors.
  • Use caulk to fill any gaps and repair window screens that have been damaged.
  • Inspect second-hand furniture before you bring it inside.



To wrap up, knowledge of the dissimilarities between brown recluses and house spiders can help prevent needless fear in case of a spider sighting. In essence, both types are harmless, so it’s important to look at physical features of both. Labeling or coloring may be similar, but the surest sign is to observe body shape and size.

If a small tan, oval-shaped spider is found in your home, it’s probably a brown recluse. However, if a larger brown spider with longer legs and banding is spotted, it’s likely a house spider. Comprehending these clues will assist you to make an informed decision about which species is in your home.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is the difference between a brown recluse and a house spider?
A1: The main difference between a brown recluse and a house spider is that brown recluses have a distinctive dark brown violin-shaped marking on their backs, while house spiders usually do not have any distinct markings on their bodies.

Q2: Is it dangerous to come into contact with a brown recluse?
A2: Yes, it is dangerous to come into contact with a brown recluse because they are venomous and can cause medical issues such as skin lesions, fever, and nausea if they bite.

Q3: Can a house spider be mistaken for a brown recluse?
A3: Yes, it is possible to mistake a house spider for a brown recluse since they are both brown spiders, but house spiders usually do not have any distinct markings on their bodies whereas brown recluses have a distinctive dark brown violin-shaped marking on their backs.